Honda says it’s the first automaker to develop a car that’ll navigate congested freeway traffic autonomously.

    It’ll put the Level 3 autonomous technology in the Japanese-market Legend sedan before the end of March 2021.

    The new autonomous equipment, referred to as Traffic Jam Pilot, has been approved for use by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and legally allows owners to take their eyes off the road.

    It goes beyond rival Nissan’s ProPilot, level 2 technology that allows hands-free driving on highways but requires you to keep your eyes on the road.

    You can read about the different levels of autonomy here.

    Traffic Jam Pilot will record data over a six-month period to monitor how often owners used it, how often it alerted the driver to take back control, and how often the “driver fell into a situation where a handover is not possible”.

    Honda isn’t the only company climbing the levels of vehicle autonomy.

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year his company is very close to reaching level 5, with the basic functionality expected to be complete this year.

    The American company started rolling out its Full Self Driving beta to select users last month, though it arguably doesn’t meet the criteria for level 4 or 5 as it requires supervision and occasional intervention.

    Waymo, part of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is currently testing prototype vehicles running level 5 technology while General Motors’ Cruise division is another high-profile entry into the autonomous vehicle arena.

    Audi announced it’d introduce a level 3 Traffic Jam Pilot on its flagship A8, though it’s walked that back recently.

    Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, head of technical development, said, “Currently, there is no legal framework for Level 3 automated driving and it is not possible to homologate such functions anywhere in the world in a series production car”.

    The use of the Legend as the first application for Traffic Jam Pilot makes sense as it’s the company’s flagship sedan, however its global presence has shrunk in recent years.

    The current generation was never offered here, while the Acura RLX – as it’s known in North America – was recently discontinued.

    Available only in all-wheel drive Sport Hybrid guise, the Japanese-market Legend mates a naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine with an electric motor integrated with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic plus two electric motors powering the rear wheels.

    Total system output is 281kW of power and 463Nm of torque.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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