The third largest Japanese automaker has recently announced it will join Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in trialing autonomous vehicle prototypes and associated technologies on the roads of a former US naval base in the vicinity of San Francisco.
Honda will also have a second testing facility at its disposal because it has also partnered with the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center, with a similar testing grounds called Mcity being set to open this summer in Ann Arbor. Honda will use as prototypes modified versions of its Acura RLX sedan, choke full of sensors and cameras needed to operate in self-driving mode – the data gathered by the testing “subjects” being later used for the development of future autonomous models. The facility that has been transformed from the former naval base will not be accessible to the public but has 20 miles of paved roads and a variety of buildings.
Honda and Germany’s Mercedes-Benz are both using the former Concord Naval Weapons Station for the testing of the advanced driver-assistance features that are widely seen as a way of massively lifting vehicle safety by taking out of the equation human error. Carmakers are also using the prototypes to test semi-autonomous driving functions that can be incrementally introduced in new models as a preparation towards the jump to fully self-driving capabilities seen to be commercially viable in the next five to fifteen years. Honda says the “controlled environment that can be continuously modified” of the 5,000-acre facility, closed down by the US navy back in 2007, would be perfect to simulate real-life condition and test their experimental vehicles and systems.