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Monday, June 6, 2016

A testing time for Honda autonomous cars

At a dedicated testing ground in California, Honda is demonstrating how close it is to arriving at its first self-driving car milestone -- a practical automated highway driving system.

With input from research centers across Europe and Japan as well as in the U.S., Honda's aim is to hit that target by 2020.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to significantly improve safety and expand access to mobility," said Jim Keller, senior manager and chief engineer, Honda R&D Americas.

 To this extent, spaces like the GoMentum Station in Contra Costa county, California are vital. It has 20 miles of roadway and infrastructure within a 5,000-acre site for realistic testing.

Likewise, in Michigan the 32-acre Mcity site has been up and running for almost a year, enabling car companies to undertake ‘real world' inner-city testing.

"We believe that safe and secure sites like GoMentum provide a unique opportunity to accelerate technology development and the advent of a cooperative car society," said Keller.

Honda's showcase also highlights the road blocks that are still in the way for all carmakers. Existing technologies are capable of driving a vehicle without human input, but until they have been tested over the equivalent of 1 million miles, there is no clear idea of how reliable they truly are. The angle of the sun could be enough to confuse a sensor, for example.

But before any car can drive itself, it will need to be able to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure -- V2X technology.

"V2X is a key requirement," said ABI Research Vice President Dominique Bonte. "With it, vehicles can be proactive and capture and share critical events happening locally with each other, ultimately ensuring safer driving practices."

At the Honda demo, communication was via the 5.9Ghz radio spectrum for Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC), and there's a risk the spectrum is under threat.

"DSRC-enabled vehicles can make the nation's roads safer for all users," said Edward Cohen, vice president, Government and Industry Affairs, Honda North America. "To accomplish the goal of enhancing road user safety, we need the support of policymakers to preserve 5.9 GHz radio spectrum."
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