Back in January, Honda unveiled its new Augmented Driving Concept at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES 2020. Here, the world witnessed this new concept car, which Honda designed to bridge the gap between fully-autonomous driving and self-operation.
Here's where the concept gets interesting: the driver is given the ability to seamlessly switch back and forth between those two driving modes, enabled by sensors in the car that monitor the driver's 'intentions'. On top of that, drivers can also switch between more than eight different modes on a spectrum ranging from fully-autonomous driving to self-operation driving. What this means precisely or what all eight of those modes are called aren’t yet clear. There's still very little information about these details to go by at the moment.
However, we should first make sure that we understand some of the key terms used, namely 'autonomous driving' and 'augmented driving'.
Autonomous driving focuses on efficiency. Wherever an autonomous vehicle is instructed to go, it will go as quickly and safely as possible.
On the other hand, this new concept by Honda emphasises 'augmented driving', which enhances the driver's experience of the whole journey and not just the final destination. It allows the driver to transition seamlessly between different driving modes, and to us, it makes more sense.
Aesthetically, the concept car itself looks very futuristic and minimalist. Some have said that the car chassis reminds them of a bathtub due to its slightly unusual design. One thing's for sure: Honda's new concept is going to redefine what we know about many traditional car parts. We may even need to unlearn some things that we have accepted as the truth about cars and driving.
The most apparent 'redefinition' revolves around the steering wheel. With Honda's new concept, the driver will now be able to manipulate the steering wheel in new ways other than steering. For example, tapping on the steering wheel twice acts as a way to start the car. Pushing it forward will accelerate the car, while pulling it back has the opposite effect. With the steering wheel taking over these functions, it's a safe assumption that the end of the gas and brake pedals could be looming ahead.
Aside from this multi-tasking steering wheel, the car has two doors, four seats, and no roof. Its doors feature triangle-shaped windows which, for some reason, allow people outside to see the lower half of occupants' bodies. Even the front windscreen seems only to be a few inches high, probably just enough to keep the wind off of your knuckles as you drive.
Looking at all of these features as a whole, Honda is now redefining certain car parts and their uses. In doing so, they may also render other parts useless and remove them altogether.
Based on what Honda has revealed so far and on the car's design elements, which are similar to the Honda E hatch, it looks like this concept will be applied to an electric vehicle. One thing's for sure: Honda's concept car seems to lack a car exhaust pipe, which may indicate that this car may not have a combustion engine in it.
Honda's Augmented Driving Concept certainly gives us a lot to think about, and not just about how car parts like steering wheels start to multi-task. The car also makes us think about the very act of driving itself.
These days, we hear a lot about autonomous vehicles capable of driving from point A to point B without human intervention. As stunning and trailblazing as this development is, there’s also something sad about it. Fully-autonomous cars might take all the fun out of driving, which is a human experience like no other.
Thus, an augmented driving concept like Honda's is the sweet compromise. It will allow humans to enjoy the best of both worlds in driving. With this concept, we still get to control the car and drive ourselves whenever we feel like it. Meanwhile, the Augmented Driving technology ensures that the vehicle stays ever-ready to take over for us should the need arise.
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By Ray Hasbollah