Rewind to November 2020 when Honda shocked everybody by announcing they would become the first automaker to mass produce a Level 3 self-driving car. They also said they would begin selling it by March 2021.
They have met their timeline by unveiling on Thursday their new Honda Legend Hybrid EX equipped with ‘Honda Sensing Elite’. But there are a few catches.
The first is that only 100 of the vehicles will be available. The second is that they will only be available for lease, with a retail price of $102,000.
The third, and perhaps the biggest catch, is that the Level 3 self-driving software is extremely limited. Appropriately named “Traffic Jam Pilot”, the system can only be used in congested traffic conditions when travelling under 31mph (50km/h) on roads that have been pre-mapped.
According to Honda, the driver does not need to pay attention when the system is active saying it can accelerate, brake, steer, and change lanes by itself. They say the driver can even “watch television/DVD on the navigation screen.”
They seem to contradict that however by burying the following statement at the bottom of their press release:
“Please do not overestimate the capabilities of each Honda SENSING Elite function and drive safely while paying constant attention to your surroundings. Please remain in condition where you can respond to the handover request issued by the system, and immediately resume driving upon the handover request.”
In all other driving conditions when the automaker’s Sensing Elite system is in use, the driver must pay attention to the road (ignoring the statement above) and be ready to take over at any time. A cabin camera monitors the driver and lights on the steering wheel and display indicate which level of the system is engaged.
Based on everything announced by Honda, their initial claim of becoming the first automaker to mass produce a Level 3 self-driving car was a bit grandiose. Without testing the system ourselves, the way it is described makes it sound exactly like Tesla’s Autopilot system, but with extreme limitations.
Honda says it has no plans to plans to increase production or sales beyond the 100 units available at launch.
What do you think of Honda’s Traffic Jam Pilot and Honda Sensing Elite? Let us know in the comments below.