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Slow and Steady, Honda Joins the Self-Driving Race

By: Bridget ClerkinJune 13, 2017
Honda announced plans for a fully-autonomous vehicle by 2025. Current models, like the Accord (pictured here), already have some autonomous features.

Better late than never.

Honda officially announced its plans to develop self-driving cars earlier this month, saying it hopes to start releasing the vehicles by 2025.

The objective will coincide with the twin goal of including autonomous freeway drive systems in all of its vehicles by 2020, the company said.

Honda revealed little else about its timeline or testing, but said it had recently experimented with an artificial intelligence that could successfully navigate streets without light sensors or GPS, which most current driverless models rely on.

While an eight-year window may seem ambitious to get a technology that’s still experiencing growing pains to market, it puts Honda near the back of a hypercompetitive pack that includes a number of boldface names from across the automotive, technology, and app development industries.

A joint venture formed by BMW and Intel recently promised a 2021 release goal for the self-driving car it’s developing. That year was also cited by another alliance—between Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and automotive supplier Bosch—as well as the Ford Motor Company.

And that’s not including competition from the Silicon Valley sect, which features efforts by Apple, Google, Uber, and Lyft, among a spate of others, to deliver the world’s first fully autonomous vehicle.

Still, facing a four-year gap in anticipated release time may prove a strategic advantage for the Japanese automotive giant, which was responsible for producing three of the top 10 most widely sold cars in the United States last year, including the Accord, Civic, and CR-V.

A suite of semi-autonomous options, such as lane change assistance, collision warnings, and automatic braking, are already offered in current Honda models, allowing the company to keep an eye on how passengers are interacting with the new technology on the road for a longer period of time.

The lag time also gives Honda the chance to sit out any major bugs that may plague the first wave of self-driving cars, and could prove better timing to invest in the technology, of which costs may be down by then.

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