In addition to freeing up time and creating lounge-like cabins, one of the big selling points of semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles is in creating safer, more efficient roadways. Toward that end, Honda is beginning to test a driving support system that uses car-to-infrastructure communications to create freer flowing, more efficient roadways.
Like the technology recently revealed by Audi, Honda's driving support system is designed to help drivers better prepare for traffic lights. The system uses onboard information about the vehicle's location and speed, along with two-way infrared communicators placed on roadways, to assess the vehicle's ability to hit a green light at an upcoming intersection. It then displays the speed that the driver needs to maintain in order to hit the green light. So long as the driver maintains that speed, he or she will sail through the intersection without getting stopped by red.
As ideal as it would be if the system flashed "green" every time, sometimes the driver will still be forced to stop at a red light. Honda's hardware attempts to make this more efficient, too, sending a notification to the car's display so that the driver can begin decelerating. When stopped at the the light, the display shows a countdown to green, prompting the driver to begin accelerating as soon as it turns green. Having a countdown should help eliminate the problem of daydreaming drivers holding up traffic when they fail to notice the light turning green, assuming drivers don't daydream straight through the countdown.
Honda announced last week that it will begin testing the system on five specific public routes in Japan's Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture this month. It is performing the testing as part of Japan's greater Universal Traffic Management Systems (UTMS) and will work with the UTMS Society of Japan and the Tochigi Prefectural Police. The test period will run about one year and involve 100 vehicles.
As explained by the UTMS Society, "Universal Traffic Management Systems are systems that realize safe, comfortable and environmentally-friendly traffic society through the application of constantly evolving technology such as information communication technologies."
Honda believes that the driving support system will smoothen acceleration and deceleration, in turn preventing accidents and increasing fuel efficiency. It plans to analyze the driving support system's effects on vehicular behavior, particularly sudden stopping and acceleration, traffic patterns, and fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Honda calls the testing the final stage in vetting the system before it can be put into practical use. The current iteration of the driving support system requires the driver to accelerate, decelerate and maintain speed, but it's easy to see how the system could be automated in the future, using the external communications information to automatically speed or slow the vehicle.