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Honda R&D America's Jim Keller is leader of the automaker's SAE 2015 World Congress planning team. The Acura MDX and the Honda Pilot sport utilities are among the vehicles that were researched, designed, and developed by Honda R&D Americas.

The ever-changing mobility landscape

A smart phone can serve as the illustrative connection between distracted driving and autonomously driven vehicles.

“In reality, all technology trends inter-relate; they’re all intertwined,” Jim Keller, Senior Manager/Chief Engineer for Automobile Technology Research at Honda R&D Americas, Inc., said during an exclusive interview with Automotive Engineering in advance of the SAE 2015 World Congress that his company is hosting.

When drivers started using their cell phones inside vehicles, the unwanted side-effect was distracted driving.

“Distraction changes the way people drive, and that changes what people expect from a vehicle,” Keller said.

“Honda as well as everyone else in the industry is looking at technical solutions that will allow a variable amount of information flow. It’s all about striking a balance. So if a turn signal is on, or a change in yaw rate is sensed, or the brake pedal is depressed, that’s not a good time to get a call.”

While most people relish talking on a phone, not every driver likes talking to a vehicle’s communication system.

“I think five years ago everybody thought, ‘voice recognition is it.’ But based on the studies that I’ve read, a lot of customers don’t like talking to their car,” said Keller, “So what is the right solution? I believe it’s not currently self-evident, but it is something we’re all looking to find.”

Fully autonomous vehicle driving would enable riders to use a mobile device or do other things in-car without those activities risking a mobility hazard. “But the early steps toward autonomous driving are still going to require driver-in-the-loop and driver monitoring technologies as the driver will need to be alert and ready for the transition back to non-autonomous driving,” said Keller.

Research work being done on vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-pedestrian, vehicle-to-bicycle, and other dedicated short-range communications could be a crucial complement to sensor-based autonomous driving.

“The beauty of connected vehicle technology is it allows for situational awareness of vehicles in the direct sight line as well as what is out-of-sight. Connected vehicle technology will allow autonomous vehicles to respond more inline with what today’s vehicle occupants consider normal. So instead of emergency braking when an object is detected, the autonomous vehicle can begin to slow down when a potential conflict is detected,” Keller said.

An emerging automotive trend puts a spotlight on augmented reality technologies as a future generation navigation tool. Much of the up-front development work that automakers and suppliers are doing as it relates to augmented reality is occurring with vehicle simulators.

“The intent of using augmented reality is to let the driver see the navigation route, including all of the necessary turns, on the roadway as projected through the vehicle’s head-up display. It is also possible to use augmented reality to show an in-use driver assist system such as lane keep assist,” said Keller, “This advanced vision technology is really cool, and it is something that customers are going to want.”

A new-for-2015 offering at this year’s World Congress provides a venue for attendees to hear about autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, connected vehicles, and other topics. “For all three days of the World Congress, right smack-dab in the middle of the show floor is the Tech Hub. It’s a spot where automotive industry, aerospace, and other sector representatives will speak on exciting and relevant issues,” said Keller, the leader of Honda’s World Congress planning team.

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