The Obama administration has proposed spending $4 billion to accelerate autonomous-car technology during the next decade. For $20,440, you can get a Honda capable of driving itself pretty well on a highway today.
Honda Motor Co.
is releasing automated safety features on its entry-level vehicle Civic LX sedan, a step that takes some of the most sophisticated technology on the market available and makes it accessible to significantly more buyers, including younger ones. General Motors Co.
, set to launch a new version of its small Chevrolet Cruze this year, is the next compact car in line to add advanced-safety bells and whistles.
This reflects a growing availability of advanced-driver assistance systems, or ADAS, such as lane-keeping assist, automatic braking or adaptive cruise control in the market. As auto makers offer the components needed to power these functions in option packages as low as $1,800, they are being snapped up at a far higher rate than electrified vehicles.
After a decade of spending much of its time and billions focused on boosting fuel-efficiency, Washington is increasing its focus on technology that could save lives.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering ways to make ADAS features more ubiquitous, and Congress will hold a hearing Tuesday from Alphabet Inc.’s
Google X team and General Motors.
A test drive in Honda’s relatively cheap new Civic shows how today’s technology convincingly and economically attacks a growing problem.
On a 25-mile commute in Metro Detroit in Honda’s new Civic, much of the drive can be completed with hands off the wheel and foot off the accelerator as long as lane markings remain visible and another vehicle is in front of the car. A camera mounted at the rearview mirror watches the road, and the car’s central nervous system tells components when to slow down, swerve or slam the brakes.
Auto makers advise against treating ADAS-equipped cars as self-drivers. Questions about liability and a thicket of regulatory ambiguities lead to a cautious approach by marketers afraid of lawsuits or embarrassing situations.