Japan's Honda Motor Co claimed on Wednesday that it will be the first company in the world to mass produce level 3 autonomous vehicles that will allow drivers to sit back and take their eyes off the road.
"Honda is planning to launch sales of a Honda Legend (luxury sedan) equipped with [a] newly approved automated driving equipment," before the end of March 2021, the company explained in a press release.
Honda in the race for full self-driving
The race to build fully self-driving vehicles has been on for several years now. The closest to reach that coveted holy grail so far is Tesla, with its Full Self Driving Beta released last month.
However, some critics have condemned the Tesla system's name as being misleading and potentially dangerous due to the fact that it is not actually a full self-driving system — the company cautions drivers to always keep their hands on the wheel.
As per Reuters, other companies, such as Google parent Alphabet Inc have also invested billions of dollars in the field, which is expected to boost future car sales substantially.
In a new development, on November 11, Japan's government granted Honda a safety certification for its autonomous "Traffic Jam Pilot" driving technology, meaning drivers will be allowed to legally take their eyes off the road using Honda's system.
The six levels of autonomy
There are six levels of autonomy in total, from 0 to 5. The numbers go from zero, covering traditional manual cars, to 5, which would represent a fully self-driving vehicle that would not need steering wheels, brakes, or accelerations pedals.
"Self-driving cars are expected to play a big role in helping reduce traffic accidents, provide transportation for the elderly and improve logistics," Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism told Reuters.
Currently, level 2 cars are allowed on public roads. These are capable of controlling speed and steering but must have an alert driver ready to take over in case anything occurs at all times.
In July, of this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company was “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving. If Honda's statement is anything to go by, however, the Japanese company is on course to win the race for full autonomy.