Honda to start testing self-driving electric cars

Courtesy of Honda Motor Co.
A one-seater electric vehicle

Honda Motor Co. plans to begin field tests for the development of self-driving electric cars in Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture. The one- or two-seater cars are equipped with technology that does not completely rely on high-precision maps for driving and instead uses cameras and sensors to recognize roads and pedestrians. The technology also understands words and makes suggestions like a person.

The field tests will utilize CiKoMa, a compact EV developed by Honda R&D Co., that allows the driver to direct the car’s course using a special device while driving. The vehicle is expected to be used for short distances, such as for sightseeing and business.

In general, an automatic driving system uses high-precision maps as its base, while using cameras and sensors to monitor the vehicle’s location, with a downside of being expensive. During the tests, cameras will recognize the environment and researchers will confirm that the vehicle will automatically drive to its destination. The plan is to start with manual driving and then gradually phase into automatic driving. Honda aims to put this technology to practical use around 2030, amid an increasingly aging population.