Honda showed off its latest “smart intersection” technology Thursday morning, part of the company’s long-term plan to evaluate how its vehicles can connect within a city environment to prevent serious crashes.
Honda has been testing the system for months, but Thursday was the automaker’s first public demonstration of how a series of cameras and sensors could warn drivers of potential crashes before they happen.
The manufacturer employs about 1,400 workers from Clark and Champaign counties and 14,000 Ohioans overall.
The research, being conducted in downtown Marysville, will tell the company whether the technology is effective in reducing accidents and how best to deploy similar systems moving forward, said Ted Klaus, vice president of strategic research at Honda Research and Development Americas Inc.
The research is an important step toward developing a safer transportation system and cutting accidents, he said. Accidents at intersections make up about 40 percent of all crashes, Honda officials said, and almost 20 percent of the 35,000 traffic-related deaths annually in the U.S.
“We have to understand the behavior of all road users, both those inside the vehicles and outside the vehicles,” Klaus said.
The project was developed in partnership with the city of Marysville and the state of Ohio as part of the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor Project. The corridor is a 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 between Dublin and East Liberty being lined with fiber optic cable that can collect data on autonomous and connected vehicles.
The demonstrations Thursday included scenarios in which the driver of a Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle received visual and audio notifications to avoid a pedestrian crossing a downtown Marysville street and a second car that ran a red light. A third scenario warned the driver of an emergency vehicle passing through the intersection, allowing the connected Honda vehicle to pull over and the emergency vehicle to pass.
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The system used four cameras mounted at each corner of downtown Marysville’s main intersection, said Sue Bai, principal researcher at Honda Research and Development.
Honda uses its software to create an image that can detect and identify vehicles and pedestrians and sends it to connected vehicles nearing the intersection. The connected vehicle’s on-board computer can then provide warnings to drivers to avoid potential obstacles.
“As long as you have connectivity in your car, you can receive these images,” Bai said.
The vehicle used in Thursday’s demonstration was outfitted with special upgrades to collect the data and notify the driver. But it’s possible customers could have similar systems installed in their current vehicles if the technology becomes more widespread, Klaus said.
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Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the state has to make sure rules are in place so new technologies are safe while also allowing high-tech companies freedom to conduct research that can lead to future investments. He said the state has been ahead of the curve in pushing for new research in the auto industry.
“If Ohio is going to lead, we need to be risk-takers like the Wright Brothers were,” Kasich said.
The demonstrations were just one aspect in Honda’s efforts to develop new transportation technologies. In a separate project, Honda announced a total investment of about $2.75 billion over 12 years to develop an autonomous vehicle in a partnership with GM and Cruise, GM’s self-driving car unit.
The companies will partner to develop an autonomous vehicle for Cruise that can be manufactured at high volume, according to information from the company.
“Honda chose to collaborate with Cruise and General Motors based on their leadership in autonomous and electric vehicle technology and our shared vision of a zero-emissions and zero-collision world,” said Honda Executive Vice President and Representative Director COO Seiji Kuraishi in a news release “We will complement their strengths through our expertise in space efficiency and design to develop the most desirable and effective shared autonomous vehicle.”
Kasich said Thursday the state needs to think about how the new technologies should be utilized to ensure the industry continues to provide good-paying jobs while improving safety for consumers.
“It’s really about saving lives,” Kasich said. “When you think about the technology that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of it.”
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