Honda has been pretty quiet about its self-driving car plans, but the Japanese automaker gave a rare public demonstration of its self-driving car prototypes at its new testing facility at GoMentum Station in Concord, California.
Honda showed how its black Acura RLX Sport Hybrid can stop and give way to pedestrians crossing the street, avoid a mannequin in the middle of a road, successfully make turns and stop at stop signs. You know, things that Google has been doing on public roads more than 1.5 million miles.
Regardless, multiple reports say Honda’s self-driving cars flawlessly drove around the testing facility. The self-driving cars are packed with cameras, sensors, and AI algorithms. It uses radar and lasers to detect potential road obstacles, and its multiple cameras help determine exactly what those obstacles are. That information is then sent to several GPUs and CPUs inside the self-driving car to determine how to best avoid any obstacles.
Jim Keller, Honda’s research and development manager, said Honda’s approach to self-driving cars needs to be different from the competition. “A lot of our competitors are developing luxury vehicles but I think the key differentiator for Honda is we’re coming out with a suite of technologies that are going to change over time – AcuraWatch and the Honda Sensing will be platforms for the future.
“So a lot of the technologies that are built in to the expensive cars, we’re trying to democratise that down to more mass market, the Honda Civic, the Accord and the Pilot for use by all our customers.”
Honda does have a license to test its self-driving cars on public roads in California, but Keller said the company still needs more time at the test track. “There’s much that can be gleaned from testing on public roads,” he said, but it’s often more practical to teach AI algorithms with repeated testing in controlled situations.
GoMentum Station has 20 miles of roads, intersections and infrastructures filled with faded lane markers and cracked asphalt – this was done intentionally to simulate real-world driving conditions. Honda said it is aiming for 2020 as the release date for its first self-driving cars.