Before 2021, Honda’s newly developed autonomous driving system “Traffic Jam Pilot” (Traffic Jam Pilot) finally obtained the Autonomous Driving L3 safety certification granted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan. At the same time, the high-end sedan “LEGEND” using this system also meets the safety standards of the Japanese Vehicle Law.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan awarded the model designation of the car, marking the official birth of the world’s first self-driving car to go on sale.
Japanese cars counterattack for half a century
The “world number one” created by the Japanese auto industry is nothing new. However, many people may not know it well. It took 50 years for Japanese cars to create the miracle of counterattack.
In the 1830s, the three American automobile groups, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, accounted for half of Japan, and their sales were twice that of local Japanese auto companies. In 1936, the Japanese government passed laws such as the Automobile Industry Law and the Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Law to strengthen the protection of the local automobile industry.
In 1939, American automakers had little place in Japan. This process gradually deepened the contradictions between Japan and the United States and affected the course of World War II.
During the Second World War, most of the Japanese auto companies devoted themselves to the military industry. This was the main reason why the Japanese auto base was still well preserved after the war.
Therefore, in order to revive the economy that was hit hard by the war, in 1946, Japan regarded the automobile industry as the first and most urgent industry to revitalize, and gave huge support in terms of politics, taxation and finance.
In 1960, with the smooth realization of Japan’s “National Income Doubling Plan”, automobiles were rapidly popularized in the national consumer market. By 1969, Japan’s automobile production and total national production both leapt to the second place in the world.
Throughout the 1970s, the development of the Japanese automobile industry was very hot, and automobile production surpassed the United States in 1980. Looking back, it took just 50 years for the Japanese auto industry to go from being helpless in front of American cars to surpassing the United States.
After Japan’s domestic auto market was relatively saturated, in the 1980s, Japan was determined to expand its overseas auto industry. In 1983, Nissan built its first factory in the United States. In 1984, Toyota also began to establish a production base in the United States.
Then it was out of control, Mitsubishi and Chrysler joined forces; Mazda and Ford cooperated; Suzuki and GM achieved a win-win situation.
Vague regulations and standards are the biggest obstacle
Another 40 years later, Japanese cars are still competing with the world’s first-class car companies through the concept of “imitating and innovating”. This time the battlefield has come to autonomous vehicles. The autonomous driving system defined by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan follows the standards of the International Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States, and divides the autonomous driving technology into 6 levels.
At present, the world’s mainstream car manufacturers provide L2 assisted driving.
Among them, the L0 level needs to be fully manned. L1 cars can provide basic auxiliary functions such as automatic braking and lane departure correction in emergency situations. At present, the world’s mainstream car manufacturers provide L2 assisted driving. The vehicle can undertake some basic automatic driving operations, but automatic braking, acceleration, steering, etc. require clear lane lines. At the same time, the driver still needs to hold the steering wheel, if necessary Take over the vehicle at any time.
The L3 level system can replace the driver and monitor the overall operation of the car. Under normal conditions, the driver can turn the steering wheel and braking system to the automatic driving system.
At this level, the vehicle has achieved automatic driving through high-precision maps. Excluding special circumstances, the driver can free his hands. Although to be precise, L3 is still conditional autonomous driving, but it is a huge improvement compared to L2.
The L4 level can take on automatic driving tasks in most cases without driver control, but the steering wheel, accelerator, brake, etc. are still reserved for backup, and manual driving is still required in some extremely special places.
At the L5 level, it is unconditional autonomous driving in the full sense, that is, there is no driver at this level, and everyone is a passenger. Vehicles can drive autonomously on the road at any time and any place, and the steering wheel, throttle and other car configurations will no longer need to be retained, and the car will also realize the concept of “minimalism” at that time.
On the highway, the driver of the Honda “LEGEND” premium sedan can hand over the steering wheel, accelerator, brake and other operations to the car’s computer control system to realize automatic driving at speeds below 50km/h.
In special circumstances, the driver needs to perform driving operations for safety. In addition to the on-board camera and radar sensing, the control system also uses satellite positioning systems and high-precision geographic data to realize the practical use of L3 autonomous driving.
After the advent of autonomous driving technology, it posed a major challenge to the existing traffic supervision system. In 2017, the Japanese Cabinet of Ministers released the “Concept and Road Map of ITS for Officials and Civilians” that autonomous driving at L2 and below is within the scope of current Japanese laws. However, in order to realize the marketization of L3 and above autonomous driving, it is necessary to further improve the “Road Transport Vehicle Law” and the “Road Traffic Law”.
Therefore, for the Japanese automobile industry, the revision of the Road Transport Vehicle Law is good news that has been eagerly awaited for many years.
Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other auto companies have deployed autonomous driving technologies with great fanfare in recent years. Among them, Toyota’s e-Palette concept car launched in 2018 has automatic driving functions. Honda also teamed up with GM to jointly develop self-driving cars, and at the same time plans to deploy globally for large-scale production.
Nissan and its partner Renault have joined the Google autonomous driving research team to jointly develop driverless taxis to promote the commercial application of Internet driverless services.
2020 is a critical year for advanced automobile companies to announce the launch of self-driving cars. In June 2017, Honda proposed for the first time its “two-step” strategy for autonomous driving-the first step is to achieve the goal of pilot driving of L3 autonomous vehicles on highways in 2020; the second step is to 2025 Introduced L4 standard self-driving cars.
Honda’s announcement of mass production of L3 self-driving cars on November 11, 2020 can be regarded as a thrilling goal to complete the first step.
At present, large automakers such as Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor are vying to develop auto-driving technology. German BMW plans to release cars with L3 autonomous driving technology within 2021. After IT companies such as WAYMO and DeNA of Google in the United States are unwilling to do so, competition in the autonomous driving market has become increasingly fierce.
Toyota’s e-Palet te concept car launched in 2018
However, the road to auto-driving cars is still not as smooth as the original plans and market forecasts of various countries. With Audi of Germany announcing the abandonment of the L3 system on the A8 model launched in 2021, Ford of the United States, Mobileye of Israel and other companies have also announced the postponement of autonomous taxi plans, making autonomous vehicle technology face an awkward situation.
There are two main reasons for this situation. First, the unclear regulatory boundaries have caused the development of L3 autonomous driving technology to be “targetless” and progress is relatively slow; second, the technology is also facing many pressures from the unpredictable commercial realization and personal safety rights.
Among them, the most important thing is the ambiguity of regulations and standards, so that automakers who intend to develop autonomous driving have always been worried about “rattling rats”. Therefore, with the exception of several countries such as Japan and Germany that have opened up the use of L3 autonomous driving, no other country’s market has issued regulations to support the application of L3 autonomous vehicles.
Japan is also ahead of Germany in the revision of laws and regulations. The constraints of regulations and standards are a key factor in the German Audi’s announcement to abandon the launch of the self-driving model A8. For the same German brand, BMW iNext will also face the same dilemma.
On the highway, the driver of Honda “LEGEND” can hand over the steering wheel, accelerator, brake and other operations to the computer control system of the car
The Japanese automobile industry can export both automobile products and the world’s advanced production management philosophy.
If Japanese cars can once again lead the world in autonomous driving, its strong auxiliary industry driving force will help activate Japan’s weak economy and to a certain extent alleviate the problems caused by an aging society.
Healthy competition releases energy
Japan’s automobile development has gone through a century of road. At present, Japan’s car ownership is nearly 80 million, and the number of cars per 1,000 people exceeds 590, which is second only to the United States.
In less than 100 years, Japanese cars can grow from scratch and become eye-catching, mainly from three aspects.
The primary reason is that the development direction of Japanese cars at each stage is very precise. Japanese automakers represented by Honda and Toyota focused on “lean production” in the early stages of development, reducing risks through low-cost operations, and building more cars with the least amount of raw materials; in the mid-term, they began to focus on quality and the reliability of the entire vehicle; in the later period After the 1970s, they began to focus on core technologies. Step-by-step advancement is the way for Japan’s mainstream automakers to make a fortune.
Secondly, the Japanese car market can be called a cruel jungle where the weak can eat the strong. Whether it is the industry standards, the indicators of major companies, or the craftsman’s attitude of employees to strive for excellence, they are like invisible whips, spurring Japanese cars to continuously strengthen their own strength and improve their quality. Therefore, the Japanese automobile industry can export both automobile products and the world’s advanced production management philosophy.
Finally, the Japanese central government and local governments will not intervene in the auto market, thus creating a space for benign free competition for Japanese brands.
An obvious example is that although Mitsubishi Motors is controlled by Japanese state-owned capital, when Mitsubishi suffered a “fuel consumption fraud scandal”, the Japanese government just stood on the sidelines and allowed it to be acquired by Nissan. Because, on the whole, such market operations are conducive to optimizing the operation and management of Japanese cars and alleviating problems such as idle production capacity.
Various favorable factors continue to release the energy of Japanese cars. Honda plans to sell self-driving cars before the end of March 2021, marking its true first step towards self-driving.
And Tokyo Maritime Nichido (Japan’s largest property insurance company) also announced that from April 2021, traffic accidents during autonomous driving will be included in auto insurance compensation, marking a major step forward in law and safety protection. step.
2021 has arrived, and this year may be an extraordinary year for Japanese cars. With the east wind of the Tokyo Olympics, it will determine whether Japanese cars can lead the world in autonomous driving.