Sedans & Coupes

The Level 3 2021 Honda Legend Still Isn’t Self-Driving

Understandably, trying to make a truly self-driving car is extremely difficult. As such, autonomous vehicles, as they’re properly known, aren’t really going to hit the road in the near future. However, while consumers are cooling somewhat on the concept, automakers are still plowing ahead. And recently, the 2021 Honda Legend achieved an autonomy milestone. But even so, that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing self-driving Hondas in the US anytime soon.

The 2021 Honda Legend is the first commercially-available Level 3 partially-automated vehicle

A dark-blue 2021 Honda Legend Hybrid EX with Honda Sensing Elite drives on a Japanese roadway
2021 Honda Legend Hybrid EX front 3/4 | Honda

Last year, Honda announced that it would release a Level 3 partially-autonomous vehicle by the end of Q1 2021. And, credit where it’s due, the Japanese automaker has indeed met that goal with the 2021 Honda Legend. As such, that makes the sedan the first production car with SAE Level 3 partial autonomy, The Drive reports.

As many Honda cars do, the 2021 Legend comes with a standard suite of ADAS features. Honda refers to it as ‘Honda Sensing.’ However, the 2021 Legend Hybrid EX has a more extensive version called ‘Honda Sensing Elite,’ Car and Driver explains. This suite comes with Traffic Jam Pilot, which operates the car’s steering, braking, and acceleration “under certain conditions,” Autoblog reports. For example, a heavily-congested inner-city highway.

Traffic Jam Pilot works via “an array of sensors,” as well as highly-detailed 3D maps and global navigation satellites, Roadshow explains. And once it’s active, Honda claims the Legend’s driver can use the infotainment screen to operate the navigation or even watch movies, Reuters reports.

To be clear, the 2021 Honda Legend Hybrid EX will let its driver know if they have to take over the controls, Hagerty reports. There’s an onboard camera monitoring the driver, and a vibrating seatbelt to alert them. And if the driver doesn’t respond, the sedan pulls over and comes to a stop, flashing its lights and sounding its horn to alert other road users.

For now, it’s a limited-release JDM model

A red 2018 Acura RLX Hybrid
2018 Acura RLX Hybrid | Acura

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However, as genuinely groundbreaking as this is, US buyers won’t be able to get their hands on it. True, Honda sold the Legend here as an Acura in the past. But the US version of the current Legend, the Acura RLX, left the market at the end of 2020. So, for now, the Level 3 tech is limited to the Japanese market, Motor1 reports.

But, to be fair, not many Japanese buyers will get it, either. For one, Honda is only making 100 Legend Hybrid EXs with the Level 3 feature. And secondly, these sedans are only available as leases. Plus, they’re not cheap; they cost the equivalent of $102k, MotorTrend reports.

Even at Level 3, the 2021 Honda Legend isn’t a self-driving car

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Although the 2021 Honda Legend Hybrid EX’s partial autonomy is impressive, it’s not a self-driving car. Neither is any car equipped with GM’s Super Cruise system or Tesla’s AutoPilot. Yes, despite the claims, Tesla does not have a self-driving car.

However, being a Level 3-equipped car, the Legend is ahead of the other two systems. SAE International standards divide vehicle autonomy into five levels, with ‘0’ being ‘no automation’ and ‘5’ being ‘full automation,’ Car and Driver explains. AutoPilot and SuperCruise are Level 2 partially-automated systems, while Level 3 is ‘conditional automation.’ And only Level 5 cars that are truly self-driving, JD Power explains.

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Interestingly, the Honda Legend almost wasn’t the first Level-3-equipped production car. Back in 2017, Audi announced its A8 would offer the tech. However, regulation issues meant the German automaker canceled those plans in 2020, Automotive News Europe reports. Those same regulations are also likely why the Level 3 Legend is staying in Japan for the time being.

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