On June 8, Japanese carmaker Honda announced itself as the latest company to join the race to bring autonomous vehicles to the mainstream market, with plans to develop vehicles capable of navigating cities by 2025. The announcement is further evidence that the future of the car industry is autonomous. Previously, Honda announced it hoped to market a vehicle capable of driving on highways by 2020, but inner-city driving is much more complicated. Since there are ample possibilities for collisions and a typical urban journey involves many more manoeuvres, Honda has set a conservative target.
Honda’s timeline to develop autonomous vehicles capable of both city and highway driving places it slightly behind large commercial rivals like BMW, and far behind the likes of Tesla and Google. The latter two firms are currently working at the forefront of autonomous driving technology.
Automatic driving on highways has the potential for widespread use in the US
Automatic driving on highways has the potential for widespread use in the US, where the inner country import industry relies heavily on trucks ferrying produce across long, straight roads. By numbers, truck driving is one of the most popular professions in the US; there are around three and a half million drivers and almost nine million people employed across the entire industry. Automating these journeys will have negative consequences for employment, but the potential for profit in this field is huge.
However, designing robots that can master driving within cities is essential to maintaining a stake in the commercial consumer market. Most people don’t use their cars to travelling long, straight distances anywhere near as much as they use them to drive to the local shop or work. If Honda wishes to put an automatous car in every driveway, building one that can drive customers around their towns or cities will be essential.
Speaking to Reuters, Honda said it would attempt to bring teams working in R&D, procurement and manufacturing together to try and keep development costs to a minimum while maintaining its strategic goals.
“We’re going to place utmost priority on electrification and advanced safety technologies going forward”, said Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo.
Hachigo highlighted that, in addition to artificial intelligence, developing new technologies such as robotics and greener energy vehicles would also be a priority.