• Kyodo

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The president of Honda Motor Company has said his firm will aim to develop fully self-driving cars by around 2025, amid increasingly fierce international competition to produce autonomous vehicles.

“We hope to establish technologies (for fully automated cars) by around 2025,” President Takahiro Hachigo told reporters earlier in the week at the company’s research and development center in Tochigi Prefecture.

Honda is now aiming to develop fully automated “level 4” cars that require no steering wheel or brake operations under specific conditions such as the time of day, location and type of weather. “Level 4” cars are just one step short of “level 5” vehicles, which make driving completely autonomous with no restrictions.

Japan’s third-largest automaker by volume is struggling to gain a competitive edge in self-driving technology over its global rivals.

Nissan Motor and U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla are already selling their respective “level 2” cars, which offer automation of multiple functions including control, acceleration and steering.

U.S. automaker Ford Motor and German carmaker BMW are aiming to produce fully driverless cars by 2021.

Honda currently aims to launch self-driving vehicles that can drive and switch lanes on highways by around 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics.

“We will take (our self-driving cars) to local streets after realizing (self-driving) on expressways,” Hachigo said.

In December, Honda said it is entering into formal discussions with Waymo, the autonomous driving unit of Google’s parent company, to integrate its self-driving technology with Honda cars.

Waymo already has a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for development of self-driving technology.

Hachigo also said Honda launched in October a special unit that develops bodies and driving gears for electric vehicles to produce exclusive EVs tailored to each market.

As part of Honda’s corporate strategy set for 2030, the president said the carmaker has launched a new department promoting cost-cutting. “We hope to raise the quality of Honda’s products and services,” Hachigo said.

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