Honda Thinks Sensing Updates Will Halve Fatal Car Accidents By 2030

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Honda is chanting the mantra in which the automotive industry magically delivers “a collision-free society” by leveraging the latest technology. Though this is hardly a novel marketing strategy, even for Honda, and one that predictably requires you to be patient because the company says it won’t be arriving as standard equipment until 2030.

Automakers have been promising that advanced driving aids would eventually result in hazard-free motoring since the 1950s. However, that kind of talk became ubiquitous around 2015 when manufacturers started promising that autonomous cars would soon eliminate crashes while battery-powered vehicles saved the environment. You’ve heard every brand say so a million times before, often issuing an itemized plan with deadlines that are never met.

Still, progress is eventually made. It just tends to happen at a much slower pace than promised and in a manner that automakers can use to financially rationalize their massive development budgets.

Honda Sensing has been embedded into its products since 2014, offering an array of convenience and safety features the entire industry has been chasing. Over the years, we’ve seen the manufacturer add things like lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking. But Honda says it’s about to add “hands-free driving” with an updated version of the Sensing suite just a few years away.

Well, it’ll be a few years away before North Americans get access. The updated version will actually be debuting in China this year under the banner of Honda Sensing 360 and Sensing Elite. But the company has announced that they’ll begin making their way to the U.S. market in the second half of this decade. So you should start seeing all the glitzy hands-free stuff by 2025 with Honda planning to make it standard by 2030.

As for what you’re actually getting, the name kind of gives it away. Whereas the original Sensing system relied on a single camera and frontal sensor array, the new version will add 5 millimeter-wave sensors (basically a horizontal radar system) that provide 360 degrees of coverage. This is supposed to make the current roster of advanced driving aids more reliable and capable.

Honda claimed that the update would "further reduce driver burden by detecting abnormal conditions occurring to the driver and the vehicle’s surroundings and reducing the risk of collisions." While it didn’t really specify what that meant, it sounds like there will be some form of driver monitoring, which presumably means in-cabin cameras.

If you’re wondering why China gets first dibs, there are a few possibilities. Honda either believes that China has surpassed the United States as an economic superpower and will simply have more people willing to spend extra money on these kinds of features or it doesn’t think the system will pass regulatory muster in the U.S. without there being some changes made to vehicle safety standards – something that’s currently taking place.

There’s also the possibility that Honda is worried about consumer acceptance in North America. Despite the entire industry pushing screen-focused infotainment systems, hands-free driving tech, and assistance features that are supposed to make for safer trips, the feedback the industry is getting on some of the above has grown mixed in the United States. Studies have suggested that advanced driving aids aren’t all that effective and may do more harm than good by gradually dulling the driver’s skills while button-free interiors have proven themselves more taxing than tranquil. The prospect of implementing driver-monitoring cameras has also been wildly unpopular with Americans and it looks like Sensing 360 might include it.

By focusing so much energy on the above, automakers have alienated themselves from a subset of buyers that are more concerned with the fundamentals than how closely their automobile mimics the capabilities of their smartphone. But they’re also in competition with each other and know that there are just as many shoppers who will be swayed by the size of the screen that’s been installed into the dashboard. Nobody wants to be accused of being a backward-looking brand, even if the future seems superficial and shortsighted. Meanwhile, governments are starting to require advanced driving aids and driver monitoring systems as a safety precaution – often at the behest of automotive lobbyists.

From the sound of things, it looks like Honda wants to modernize its advanced driving system to be more competitive with other brands that have leaned more heavily into the technology. But you still won’t be getting a self-driving car.

The “Advanced In Lane Driving with Hands-Off Function” seems to be Honda Sensing 360's coolest feature. It’s basically hands-free cruise control with the ability to take corners (think Tesla Autopilot). However, it allegedly won’t require you to retake the wheel unless the car decides it cannot navigate the road ahead. If you fail to do that, the car then goes mental (honking and flashing lights) to alert the people around you that you’re unresponsive and about to crash while it does its best to avoid hitting anybody. Emergency Steering Support Technology is technically supposed to bring the car to a stop as safely as possible. But when everything goes sideways at 70 mph, that’s often easier said than done.

There will also be technology migrating over from Acura products, the most interesting being the exit warning feature that’s supposed to alert occupants of nearby (or oncoming) pedestrians or vehicles you may not notice are approaching. Though the really slick stuff will be exclusive to Sensing Elite, which Honda said was poised to receive “technologies to assist the driver on non-expressways including a hands-off function while driving through a traffic jam on arterial roads; to enable hands-off functions during merging onto and exiting from an expressway at a road junction; to assist the driver by automatically parking in and driving out of a home garage.”

Again, these are things we’ve seen other manufacturers show off in the past. But they’re not features you’d typically associate with Honda products. Regardless, the manufacturer is making some pretty big claims for the system and it would be impressive to see a successful execution – even if it’s accompanied by unsavory driver monitoring and more warning chimes than anyone should have to deal with.

The current version of Honda Sensing is standard on all new Hondas and Acuras sold in North America. Honda Sensing 360 and the related AcuraWatch will begin offering hands-free features in China immediately with the plan for it to become standard equipment globally by 2030 (supposedly reducing traffic fatalities in Honda products by half). But Sensing Elite doesn’t appear to have a formal timeline, not that we’d have expected the automaker to adhere to anything.

[Image: KULLAPONG PARCHERAT/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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3 of 6 comments
  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Nov 30, 2022

    Not only do I not want this technology in any vehicle that I own, I will not have it. As in I will never buy it or, if forced by circumstances to accept its presence, I will find a way to disarm it.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 01, 2022

    "Though the really slick stuff will be exclusive to Sensing Elite"

    Why does Honda hate poor people?

    • Dick Johnson Dick Johnson on Dec 01, 2022

      Their shareholders love profit more than poor people like every other car maker!

  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).