Along with its two better-known core brand values of driving fun and fuel economy, Honda has announced an ambitious new “zero collisions” target to fulfill its ongoing focus on safety.
In a new safety mandate, Honda says it, “dreams of a collision-free mobile society where our customers, and everyone sharing the road, can safely and confidently enjoy the freedom of mobility.”
Honda’s first steps on this path are already in place, working to avoid collisions with city brake and pedestrian auto brake features, which will apply full brakes if a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian is deemed imminent. These systems are likely to make their first appearance in the 2014 Acura RLX.
Called Autonomous Emergency Brake (AEB), the Honda system uses camera and radar and aims to deliver “safety performance” beyond that of rival systems from brands such as Volvo and Subaru. In fact, Honda claims its new system will bring the vehicle to a complete stop from speeds of up to 60 km/h. According to internal test data, 90 percent of vehicle collisions happen at that speed or below.
THE FIVE YEAR PLAN
In the mid-term, Honda has set five year plan in place to roll out a new intelligent all-speed cruise control system know as i-ACC. An advancement on current systems that can slow a vehicle when another car suddenly comes into the lane, using a camera and millimeter wave radar Honda’s i-ACC can monitor up to six vehicles on the road and using advanced algorithms can predict if a vehicle will cut into the lane. As a result, i-ACC can respond up to five seconds earlier than reactive systems, delivering a result that is smoother while also reducing the possibility of a rear-impact from another car.
As future-forward as i-ACC is, it is in many ways a stop-gap measure until more advanced vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle safety systems arrive as part of a ten year plan for zero collisions.
One such technology is branded as Green Wave by Honda, for its ability to not just improve safety but also fuel economy. By communicating with roadside beacons, traffic signal information can be transmission to the car allowing it to coach the driver.
On a custom display, Green Wave will show how long until the light turns green and when to let off the gas to avoid further acceleration and then harder braking. The idea, however, is to avoid stopping at all, by relaying future traffic signal information to the car and then coaching the driver on the recommended speed required to make the light while green. Honda claims the system will result in a five to seven percent fuel economy improvement, due partly to the fact that speeds are kept lower, while also reducing the instances of braking and accelerating.
Showcased on a development car for journalists at the company’s R&D center in Utsunomiya, Japan, two Honda Odysseys drove a course lined with stop-lights, one car using the Green Wave technology and the other not. The car without Green Wave would accelerate faster and attain a higher speed, but then have to apply the brakes and wait at the next light. When the light changed, the Green Wave-equipped Odyssey would then have just arrived at the light, sailing past the now-accelerating car.
As is obvious from the scenario, another benefit is reduced traffic congestion and Honda is intending to test the effectiveness through a pilot project running from the nearby train station at Utsunomiya, to it’s R&D headquarters.
The ten year goal for this technology is, however, heavily dependent upon government infrastructure. According to Honda representatives on hand for the demonstration, Japan currently has 54,000 traffic beacons installed throughout the country, though they’re not suited to this project. The current units can relay only information about traffic on the road ahead, not traffic signal information. Part of an earlier project, replacement beacons with this hightened capability could be put in place.
As advanced as that concept is, Honda is also part of a cooperative effort between several automakers to develop vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems that would help eliminate vehicle collisions from unseen situations, alerting a driver of a hard-to-see vehicle (like a motorcycle) or even notify them of another motorist that is about to run a light.
Through both vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle communications systems, Honda aims to achieve its Zero Collisions goal.