It’s Heeerrreee! This Is A Big Deal!

Honda’s is first with a self-driving car that pays attention to the road so the person texting while driving doesn’t smash into you

John Warner


EmelieP, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We have to start somewhere.

The Honda Legend is the first production Level 3 autonomous car. 100 are available in Japan for a cool JP¥ 11 million (about US$ 102,000).

What’s a level 3 autonomous vehicle?

What it is not is fully autonomous. There are six levels of autonomy, ranging from Level 0, which is manually controlled, to Level 5, in which humans are optional. Obviously, Level 3 is in between.

Level 3 is the first at which vehicles drive themselves so humans can take their eyes off the road, for example to text or watch a movie. The vehicle detects its environment and handles immediate responses, like emergency braking or accelerating past a slow-moving vehicle. The technical leap from Level 2 to Level 3 is significant and eliminates many accidents caused by humans.

The driver must remain alert and ready to take control in limited situations specified by the manufacturer. The system will let the human know when it needs help, for example by vibrating the driver’s seatbelt. If the human doesn’t pay attention, the car makes an emergency stop flashing its hazard lights and blowing its horn to alert surrounding cars.

Autonomous level 4 cars don’t require humans to drive in most circumstances, but humans can still manually override the system. In level 5 cars, humans are along for the ride without steering wheels or acceleration/braking pedals to take control.

Innovation required

Three kinds of innovation must occur to realize the enormous potential of autonomous vehicles.

  • Technical innovation. The autonomous vehicles and the systems that support them must safely operate.
  • Regulatory innovation. Regulation must allow autonomous vehicles to operate on public streets with human driven vehicles.
  • Economic innovation. Business models must support an autonomous vehicle ecosystem. This may include increases in the value of real estate in which dedicated fleets of on-demand vehicles are amenities. Pay-per-use and subscription-to-use funding models may evolve paid for by users or perhaps by employers. Other revenue streams are possible.

In addition to autonomous cars in Japan, an army of autonomous trucks has arrived in China.

The innovators who will create fortunes around autonomous vehicles aren’t only those who produce the vehicles themselves, but all of the supporting innovations that make autonomous vehicles possible.

The United States is a laggard.

That’s unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, true. Honda has no plans to bring its Level 3 autonomous system to the United States. Purportedly to keep us safe, regulators in the United States are putting American innovators behind the curve of others in the world not only in autonomous vehicle technology but in autonomous vehicle business models that will transform the global economy.

The rest of the world has a head start in maturing technology, implementing regulation, and creating novel business models.

Hopefully, we’ll wake up in time.



John Warner

Serial entrepreneur sharing 40 years of insights to control your destiny in our turbulent times