Subaru Corp. aims to start selling vehicles equipped with the equivalent of “level-2” autonomous technology, which can steer, accelerate and slow down on ordinary roads, in the second half of the 2020s, company officials said Tuesday.
Several automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., already offer level-2 autonomous vehicles for use on expressways. But developing such vehicles to run on ordinary roads has been a challenge, due to the need to respond to unexpected scenarios such as pedestrians’ movements in order to avoid accidents.
Subaru plans to develop a next-generation system using its EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and artificial intelligence to recognize a traffic lane even when the white line on the roads cannot be seen.
Level-2 technologies allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel under certain conditions, but drivers are still required to monitor the vehicle’s driving at all times.
Earlier this year, Toyota launched new models of its luxury sedan Lexus LS and hydrogen-powered Mirai that are equipped with level-2 assistant technologies.
In March, Honda Motor Co. launched the revamped Legend sedan in Japan with level-3 autonomous technology — becoming the world’s first vehicle on sale to allow the driver to engage in different tasks, such as reading and watching TV, when the car is driving in certain conditions, including congested traffic on expressways.
In the case of an emergency, the driver still needs to take full control of the vehicle.
Autonomous driving technology is classified into five levels, ranging from level 1, which allows either steering, acceleration or braking to be automated, to level 5, which offers full automation.
Japan has been keen to push for the development of self-driving cars, with a revised law taking effect in April last year that allows level-3 autonomous vehicles to run on public roads.
There has also been intensifying competition among global automakers to develop vehicles with level-4 self-driving technology, which can conduct driving tasks without human intervention within limited areas.
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