Honda Motor Co. is joining the ranks of automakers that have made it a priority to develop and market self-driving vehicles in the near future. According to the company’s announcement, the plan is to have these self-driving vehicles on the road by the year 2020, which coincidentally falls on the same year as the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

While there doesn’t appear to be a connection between the two other than to showcase Japanese ingenuity, Honda’s timeline is exactly the same as that of Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. — fellow Japanese automakers that have set 2020 as their target dates to bring self-driving cars to market.

Honda declined to elaborate on what kind of self-driving car it’s planning to develop other than the obvious benefits it will provide to drivers. The announcement also comes a week before the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, which is traditionally the venue where Japanese car builders like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan like to show off their nuttier prototypes.

The sudden rush to develop autonomous driving cars, or in some cases, semi-autonomous driving cars, was pushed into the forefront by Google. The tech giant began road testing its autonomous driving technology in 2012, and as of June 2015, the team overseeing the project announced that their vehicles have driven over 1 million miles of testing, or the “equivalent of 75 years of typical US adult driving.”

It’s no secret that the rapid development of Google’s autonomous driving technology has compelled traditional automakers to come up with their own development programs. Now you can add Honda into the mix of what is turning into the "next big thing" in the evolution of automotive technology.

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Why it matters

I don’t know if its because we just celebrated “Back to the Future Day” or it’s because a lot of automakers are already doing this, but Honda announcing its plan to offer autonomous driving vehicles strikes me as being a little bit late to the party. In all honesty, I expected Honda to be one of the first automakers to push for this technology because of its decorated history in robotics and artificial intelligence. Anyone remember ASIMO?

Ultimately, that’s neither here nor there because the important thing is that Honda’s joining the bandwagon, and as far as expectations go, I expect the Japanese company to develop one of the advanced versions of autonomous driving cars in the market by 2020. That might be a little too much on its plate to carry at this point, but Honda has proved time and time again that it’s one of the best automakers in the world when it comes to developing intelligence-based technologies.

Do I expect the system to work flawlessly immediately? Of course not, but I do expect it to be one of the best in the market, if at all it comes to a point when a lot of automakers begin offering the technology in their fleet of cars. Besides, 2020 is still a little over five years away. That should give Honda enough time to work on the tech using prior experience in related fields to come up with a system that’s not only fully functional, but more importantly, safe to use for drivers all over the world.

Toyota has already unveiled the Highway Teammate, a prototype for a self-driving car based on the Lexus GS, while Tesla has already made software updates to its Model S sedans to include its new AutoPilot system. Honda’s already behind in that regard, but if it concentrates less on being the first and more on being the best, I really believe that it can develop one of the best autonomous driving systems in the market.

Source: Automotive News

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