Honda has announced that it is working on its own self-driving vehicle and plans to put it on the roads by 2020, the same year as other Japanese car makers Toyota and Nissan promise to bring their own autonomous cars to the road.
The announcement was made just a week ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show, where car companies are expected to showcase various concepts of the futuristic robot car that is said to be the future of transportation. Honda, however, declined to provide details about what its self-driving car could offer, aside from the ability for drivers to sit back and let the car take over.
Google's self-driving cars, which began as a Toyota Prius, Lexus RX450h and an Audi TT equipped with Google's LIDAR system, began road testing in 2012, shaking up the confidence of traditional car makers and prompting them to announce their plans to develop autonomous or semiautonomous technologies for their vehicles to keep Silicon Valley in check.
Toyota, the world's largest maker of vehicles, for instance, unveiled the Highway Teammate, its prototype for a self-driving car based on the Lexus GS, which took Japanese journalists out for a test ride earlier this month. The name implies the car is not totally autonomous just yet, since it can only go into full autopilot mode when it enters a highway.
Nonetheless, when the driver pushes on the autopilot button next to the steering wheel, the car steer itself on the highway, switch lanes and overtake other cars with the help of map data gathered by one camera, five radar devices and six laser sensors. The car also detects when it gets off the highway and automatically puts itself back into the hands of the driver.
Closer to Google's home in Silicon Valley, electric car maker Tesla also rolled out a major software update to its Model S sedans, which can now keep and change lanes, speed up or slow down, and hit the brakes as needed. Version 7.0 of Tesla's software also allows the car to look for a parking space and parallel park itself. In upcoming software versions, Tesla CEO promises a feature that lets the Model S park itself into the garage without a driver behind the wheel.