Honda first to test car autopilot

HONDA HAS become the first carmaker to be allowed to test a car `autopilot’ on public roads.

The Japanese Ministry of Transport has agreed to small-scale trials of Honda’s Intelligent Driver Support system (HIDS), which detects when there is a vehicle ahead and automatically controls the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance. It also `sees’ lane markings and adjusts the steering to keep the car in the centre of the lane.

Recent tests have shown that the system significantly reduces the strain of driving on high-speed roads and motorways, boosts a driver’s ability to react to changing road conditions, and can compensate for the effects of fatigue.

If public road trials are successful, Honda hopes to build HIDS into future models.

The system uses a laser to measure the distance between the car and the vehicle in front. This is coupled to speed and yaw sensors mounted in the car to determine how fast it is moving.

When there is no traffic in front of the car it travels at a constant pre-set speed. But if a vehicle appears ahead, the radar tracks it. When it gets too close the system shuts off the car’s accelerator and, if necessary, applies the brakes to maintain the correct distance apart, and sounds a warning to the driver. When the vehicle in front turns off or changes lane, the car accelerates back to its pre-set speed.

A small camera watches lane markings and the car’s position within the lane, and can distinguish broken white lines and double white lines.

The steering torque needed to keep the car in the centre of the lane is calculated and used to control the current to the electrically powered steering to keep the car on course.

Testing of the system is due to begin immediately.

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