Honda has begun offering cars with Level 3 (L3) self-driving capability to customers in Japan. The Honda Legend EX now features a new Honda Sensing Elite ADAS suite, which builds on the functionality of the previous Honda Sensing safety system that is currently fitted as standard throughout Honda’s European automobile range.
The upgraded Elite system features a Traffic Jam Pilot function – an advanced technology qualifying for L3 automated driving (conditional automated driving in a limited area), for which Honda received type designation from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) last year. To promote commercialization of L3 automated vehicles, the MLIT has amended the Road Vehicle Act, and the revised act (Act No. 14 of 2019) has been in effect since April 1, 2020.
Traffic Jam Pilot technology enables the automated driving system – rather than the human driver – to drive the vehicle under certain conditions, such as when the vehicle is in congested traffic on an expressway. To control the vehicle, the system determines its position and the road conditions using data from the 3D HD maps and the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), detecting the vehicle’s 360° surroundings using several external sensors.
At the same time, the system tracks the conditions of the driver using the monitoring camera mounted inside the vehicle. Based on such a wide range of information, the main ECU makes proper recognitions, predictions and decisions and applies a high-level control to acceleration, braking and steering inputs to help the driver achieve smooth, high-quality driving.
To ensure safety and reliability, Honda simulated approximately 10 million patterns of possible real-world situations, and several demonstration tests were conducted while driving test vehicles on expressways for a total of approximately 1.3 million kilometers. Moreover, the car maker says the system incorporates redundant system design to ensure safety and reliability in the event of a problem with any of the devices.
Honda adds that several sensors are now embedded to make them less noticeable and ensure an exterior more in keeping with the appearance of a flagship sedan.
Interior equipment exclusive to this model includes Honda Sensing Elite indicator lights that feature carefully selected respective positions, sizes, colors, brightness and other details, as well as the 12.3in full-LCD GUI. This equipment helps ensure intuitive understanding of operation status, current situation and any requests to transfer control to the driver.
Key features of Honda Sensing Elite
Hands-off functionality: While driving with adaptive cruise control (ACC) with low-speed follow and lane-keeping assist system (LKAS) activated, when certain conditions are satisfied on an expressway, the system will assist the driving operations even while the driver has their hands off the steering wheel.
Adaptive in-lane driving: The system assists in driving and in following a car within a lane. It drives the vehicle along the middle of the lane while maintaining the pre-set speed. When there is a car in front, the system assists in following while maintaining a proper following distance.
Active lane-change assist with hands-off function: While driving using the adaptive in-lane driving, when the driver confirms safe surroundings and puts on the turn signal, the system assists acceleration/deceleration and steering for the lane change.
Active lane-change with hands-off function: While driving using the adaptive in-lane driving, when the driver switches on the active lane-change with hands-off function, the system assesses the situation and assists the lane change and/or passing of the other vehicle under certain conditions. When the system detects a car in front being driven at low speed, it notifies the driver and then assists with passing and returning to the original lane.
Traffic Jam Pilot: While driving using the adaptive in-lane driving, when the vehicle gets caught in traffic congestion under certain conditions, the system takes control of acceleration, braking and steering while monitoring the vehicle’s surroundings on behalf of the driver. The system drives, stops and resumes driving within the same lane while maintaining a proper following distance in accordance with the speed of the vehicle in front. While the vehicle is under the control of the system, the driver can watch television/DVD on the navigation screen or operate the navigation system to search for a destination address, which helps mitigate driver fatigue and stress while driving in a traffic jam.
Emergency-stop assist: When the driver continues to be unresponsive to the system’s requests for a handover (the transfer of control back to the driver), the system assists deceleration and stopping of the vehicle by making lane change(s) to the outermost lane or the shoulder of the road. To be more specific, if the driver does not respond to the system’s handover requests, the Traffic Jam Pilot/hands-off function will be disengaged, and the system will further urge the driver to respond to the handover request using visual, auditory and tactile alerts including escalated alarm sounds and vibration on the driver’s seatbelt. If the driver continues to be unresponsive, the system will assist deceleration and stopping of the vehicle while alerting other vehicles around using hazard lights and the horn. When there is a road shoulder, the system will assist deceleration and lane changes until the vehicle reaches the shoulder of the road for a safe stop.
Human-machine interface (HMI): The interface enables the driver to instantaneously recognize the operating status of the system, the driving situation and the handover requests issued by the system. Honda Sensing Elite indicator lights are positioned on the steering wheel, the top part of the navigation screen and the glovebox. When the hands-off function is activated, the indicator light on the steering wheel illuminates, and when Traffic Jam Pilot is activated, other indicator lights also come on with a blue light. When the system requests the handover, all indicator lights change their color to orange and blink to send an easy-to-understand message to the driver. The large 12.3in, full-LCD meter also displays the operating status of the system, driving situation and the handover requests in a simple yet expressive manner.
Limited lease sales of the Honda Legend Hybrid EX commenced in Japan on March 5. Watch a video here.