Honda has revealed this week that by 2020, it will begin to make partial autonomous control available in its passenger model range.
The carmaker, Japan’s third largest, has yet to reveal full details of its driverless technology, promising instead to preview its plans at next week’s 2015 Tokyo motor show.
It is known however that the system will operate along similar lines to Toyota’s Highway Teammate technology, previewed in concept form last week ahead of a future production rollout.
In Toyota’s case, and likely also in Honda’s, the system is only able to take total control of a vehicle’s operation on highways, and only in areas equipped with the necessary vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies.
As with Honda, Toyota is shooting for 2020 to get its semi-autonomous driving technology to market, and homeland rival Nissan has revealed similar goals in recent times.
With the 2020 Summer Olympics to be hosted in Japan, we can likely expect all three companies to invest heavily in promoting their driverless technology - just as startup Robot Taxi showcases its own systems.
Elsewhere, General Motors has revealed plans to get semi-autonomous highway driving available, even sooner than Honda and Toyota, by 2017.
American electric carmaker Tesla recently upgraded its Model S with a new Autopilot mode that offers a similar level of autonomous control, although - unlike the further-afield plans of Honda and Toyota - Tesla’s system requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
Tesla won’t be left behind, though, with founder Elon Musk confirming recently that the company is planning to introduce more advanced full-autonomous capability by 2020.
Mercedes-Benz has beaten them all, to an extent, with its ‘Distronic Plus with Steering Assist’ system, capable, like Tesla’s only newly launched Autopilot, of controlling the speed and lane position of a vehicle in certain conditions. But, as with Tesla’s system, Mercedes’ technology is a hands-on-wheel and eyes-on-road affair.
Come 2020, carmakers expect to have the technology ready for owners to direct their hands and attention to other purposes, although legislation in most countries - for now - is yet to catch up with those plans, still requiring a driver to be in complete control of their vehicle at all times.