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Acura Pursues Self-Driving Cars With Newest RLX Test Prototype

Honda’s effort to bring self-driving cars — or autonomous vehicles (AVs), as they’re also called — to our roads is in the hands of its luxury Acura brand in the United States. Although Honda is testing actual Honda mules in Japan, in this country it’s Acura that’s doing the heavy lifting.

As do several other carmakers, Acura has an automated development vehicle in testing that’s just been upgraded. The fact that it’s performing intense testing with autonomous mules both here and in Japan confirms Honda’s commitment to developing an AV. However, that’s not its short-term goal. With a few carmakers tossing around 2020 as a target date for an operational AV, Honda is quick to distance itself from the idea that completely autonomous vehicles will be in production anytime soon.

At the heart of the current Honda/Acura effort is to democratize newfound technology across a wide range of Honda and Acura models. For example, AcuraWatch, which features adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation and a collision-mitigation braking system with pedestrian-sensing capability, is now available on every 2016 Acura. Honda Sensing, Honda’s version of AcuraWatch, is even available on all Civic grades, as well as standard on the nameplate’s top-end Touring trim.

Honda/Acura AV Strategy

Speaking for Acura, Matt Sloustcher recently told Autotrader that its vision isn’t to have a 100 percent self-driving car in the next 4 or 5 years but to significantly help the driver through better technology by 2020. According to Sloustcher, Honda/Acura may well have cars that are capable of humans disengaging and reengaging with them under certain conditions by that 2020 date. “Corporate Honda sees autonomous vehicles as feasible,” he explained, “but it doesn’t see an end date for one at this point.”

Acura’s Test Prototype

Acura recently rolled out its second-generation test prototype, a 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. It has a more-advanced array of sensors and cameras than the earlier-model RLX it replaced. With the latest radar — LIDAR (laser-based radar) — as well as more cameras, Sloustcher said it’s much better suited to the next level of autonomous testing. The newest RLX also offers better circuitry and heat management than the older model for all the additional electronics it will be expected to host.

As the hybrid version of the RLX, the test prototype uses a 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 combined with three electric motors. It also comes with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. Even with the added weight of AWD, the hybrid is rated by the government at 30 miles per gallon in combined driving, as opposed to the regular gasoline-fueled car at 24 mpg combined.

Acura’s Test Environment

Acura is the first carmaker to take its AV testing to the San Francisco-area GoMentum Station. Located at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, GoMentum is a 5,000-acre facility with 20 miles of paved, urbanlike streets with buildings and other citylike structures. Honda is also heavily involved with the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center, which is similarly working toward a system of connected and self-driving cars.

Endgame

Like so many other carmakers, Honda/Acura is steaming ahead full speed developing autonomous technologies. Just when all those technologies will dovetail into an actual fully autonomous car, though, is anyone’s guess.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More

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1 COMMENT

  1. 2014 Acura RLX, with advanced package, purchased 3/14 atPleasanton Acura

    ·       On going electrical, entertainment system, fitand finish, suspension, electronics, backup camera, accessory issues:

    ·       13 visits to dealer on car issues

    ·       18 days the car was at the dealers for repairs

    ·       4 immediate returns to the dealer due to repairsincorrect or not complete

    ·       4 sessions working with dealer service personnelto show them how to debug issues; DTS audio, USB file interface, battery cellfailure, internal recirculating fan

    ·       2 wheels bent due to road damage

    ·       0 time I have had wheel damage due to roaddamage on other vehicles

    ·       1 factory wheel cost covered cost for 4 new wheelsand tires in aftermarket

    ·       >40 hours, amount of time spent dealing withcar problems

    ·       1 safety issue, video recorded, which Acura saysthey will not fix

    ·       4 videos recorded to show problems to servicepersonnel because their first response is customer did something wrong

    ·       14 weeks to get request to Acura customerservice denied

    ·       12 times I tried contacting Acura customer service

    ·       3 times Acura customer service contacted me

    ·       1 time Acura customer service told dealer not totalk to me

    ·       10 emails to dealership and Acura management

    ·       0 responses to email

    ·       1 commute car purchased as I am worried RLX cannotstand up to commute and warranty is almost over

     

    Engine, LED headlamps, Sound quality are fantastic.  Car has low resale value as my experiencedoes not appear to be unique.  So I haveto chalk this up to a very expensive lesson. While the car is disappointing the response of the dealership andAcura/Honda customer service was more  disappointing.  Acura buyer beware.  You are welcome to contact me and I can sharethe details of my experience and point you at my files and the videos of theproblems I have had.

     

    Dave Pap Rocki, dpr_ads1 at Comcast dot net

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