What's next, an autonomous off-road Ridgeline pickup?
Most automakers working on self-driving vehicles are (quite literally) laser-focused on the road. But some are looking far beyond – like Land Rover's Project Cortex, or this latest development from Honda.
Set to be unveiled at CES in Las Vegas next month, the Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle mounts an array of sensors and GPS on a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle to navigate even the toughest-to-reach locations. And with no roads or direct human intervention required, the possible applications are virtually endless: Honda already envision using the vehicle for landscaping, snow removal, construction, agriculture, even search and rescue.
Functioning more like a helicopter drone than a self-driving taxi, the vehicle known internally as 3E-D18 has three different operating modes. In “Follow Me” mode, it can automatically shadow workers along their route. In “A to B” or “Pattern” modes, it can drive itself along pre-programmed routes, performing whatever function may be required along the way.
In the process, it can bring with it power for whatever electrical tools may be needed on site. And with no driver (or rider) on board, it also incorporates a rail accessory mounting system to make it a highly flexible platform for a variety of applications.
Honda American R&D center is already testing it, for example, on a solar farm in North Carolina, an agricultural research facility (read: fancy farm) in California, and for fighting forest fires in the wilds of Colorado. The possibilities seem virtually limitless, and though it's initially being tested using one of Honda's quad bikes as its platform, we could easily see the lessons learned on the project to bigger Honda off-roaders like the Ridgeline pickup and the new Passport crossover.