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Self-driving cars won’t hit the roads before 2030 despite the hype, says Honda’s autonomous vehicle veteran

Published: October 27, 2015 | Tokyo

Today we cannot say the actual timeline for fully automated driving. Personally I think it’s not before 2030.
Yoichi Sugimoto, Sr. Chief Engineer | Honda R&D Americas

In the lead-up to the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, the autonomous car expert for Honda, Yoichi Sugimoto, who has been working on the technology since 1986, says it will be “at least” 2030 before a car can completely drive itself.

With tech giants Apple and Google rumoured to be developing self-driving vehicles — they’ve been hiring automotive engineers for the past few years — the car industry has fast-tracked its plans to develop similar technology.

Audi and Mercedes-Benz have autonomous cars testing on public roads in the US and China and say the technology will be in showrooms by 2020. Google has been perfecting its software on Google Map vehicles.

But Honda has called for calm in the race to take control away from drivers.


He said driverless cars face many hurdles. “Technical issues, regulation issues and public acceptance. We are just starting to learn about those kind of issues.”

Sugimoto says there are still too many variables — such as weather, pedestrians, cyclists and even animals that can run onto the road — and not enough computing power to process all the information fast enough, and then make the correct decision.

He said the challenges for autonomous cars included simply being able to drive at night; the resolution of the cameras is currently not high enough to match the human eye.

It’s also difficult for computers to predict random behaviour on the road, such as “some animals jumping into your lane”.

“In Australia, maybe a kangaroo; there are many deer in Japan and the United States,” says Sugimoto.

“In Asian countries there are many pedestrians and bicycles on the side of the road. So many unpredictable things happen.”

When asked about the rumoured autonomous cars from Apple and Google, Sugimoto said: “We can’t say much about the other companies, (but) it’s very difficult.”

He said autonomous cars may initially be restricted to local precincts that have been specially mapped or have roads with built-in sensors.

“Maybe in some limited areas they have special automated lanes or a closed precinct, maybe it can work,” said Sugimoto.

He said autonomous cars could initially work in a “limited small community, kind of like a golf cart”.

Source: Australia News


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