Honda is bringing Level 3 autonomy to production vehicles in Japan

The tech is called Traffic Jam Pilot and will debut in the Honda Legend sedan.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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2021 Honda Accord Hybrid

Japanese Honda drivers could be going hands-off on highways as early as March 2021.

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The race toward a future where fully autonomous cars are a reality is intense. Some companies are having more success than others; Waymo has been shuttling people around select US cities without drivers, while others, like Tesla , are making customers essentially beta testers in their own cars. Honda is aiming for something in the middle, Reuters reported Wednesday.

While Waymo's pilot program vans are operating at Level 4 and Tesla's Autopilot feature is Level 2, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers definition, Honda wants to be the first to bring Level 3 autonomy to mass-production cars and make it common. That's where the Traffic Jam Pilot system comes in. The system, which was very recently certified for use on public roads in Japan, will be equipped on Honda Legend models beginning in March of 2021.

If that sounds soon, that's because it is. What, exactly, is Level 3 autonomy, though? According to the SAE, a Level 3 system is capable of conditional autonomy. In Honda's case, it's meant to be used in traffic on highways. An example of a system that's close to Level 3 in functionality would be Cadillac's Super Cruise, which allows its drivers to operate their vehicles hands-free but uses a camera to monitor whether a driver is paying attention when doing so. Honda's system would have to go a step further.

Other companies have attempted to bring Level 3 tech to market, including Audi, but so far the tech hasn't been approved for use on US roads. It's unclear when or even if Honda would bring this tech to the US, but if it could do so and keep costs down (which is likely, because this is Honda we're talking about), the implications could be significant.

Honda didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.

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