Level 3 Automated Driving Tech Has Major Limitations: Report

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Last year, Honda surprised the automotive world by beating the leading luxury automaker to the market with its functional Level 3 autonomous driving technology. It’s a tricky subject, as Audi actually had the first system a few years earlier but never activated it due to legal issues regarding its use. Therein lies the problem – just having the technology is not enough. It needs to work in the real world, and that’s easier said than done.

All eyes are now on Honda, as it is the only carmaker with a Level 3 model operating on public roads. The high-end Legend sedan received approval for the technology last year in Japan, where it can be used on 90 percent of Japan’s roads according to Automotive News. As a refresher, the Level 3 system promises hands-free and eye-catching driving, though the driver should be ready to take control at any moment. In Honda’s case, the system (called Honda Sensing Elite) functions as a hands-off assist aimed at traffic jams, as it is only available under 31 mph. But you have to travel at least 18 mph before you can use it.

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Automotive News details a recent trip on Japanese highways in Legend with the not-so-impressive Honda Sensing Elite. During the 90-minute test drive, the correct parameters to activate the system were met only once, and it wasn’t long before the speed rose above the 31-mph limit. Additionally, the system cannot function on highways with sharper corners, and Honda is reportedly advising drivers not to eat or even wear sunglasses while using the technology.

Level 3 is a strange middle ground in the race for fully autonomous and reliable cars. Current vehicles with Level 2 systems still require constant driver input, serving as an assist versus true autonomous driving. Level 4 transfers control to the vehicle in most situations, although the driver can still drive at any point. Level 3 being an all-in-one solution that doesn’t do anything very well, and recent drives in Japan seem to back that conclusion.

Buyers in Japan can also be unsure. Production on Legends with Honda Sensing Elite’s Level 3 system is limited to 100, but around 80 have been sold so far. We suspect a company like Mercedes-Benz, which recently gained international approval for its own Level 3 system, will be watching Honda’s success – or potential lack thereof – in Japan very closely.

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