INTERVIEW: Honda's Stance On Self-Driving Is One Gearheads Will Love


Honda tell us why robots won't take over its cars and what it thinks about a new Civic Hybrid.

At the 2016 Paris Motor Show we spoke with Honda at length about the Civic Hatchback and the Type R prototype. But those two cars weren't the only topic of discussion during our roundtable interview with Civic head engineer Mitsuru Kariya. In between talk of AWD vs. FWD and the race to squeeze as much power out of small turbocharged engines as possible, both autonomous driving and eco-friendly cars came up. When it comes to autonomous driving, Honda wants to ensure there's still room for humans to take the wheel.

"We surely believe in autonomous driving. It will come, definitely. But we believe, and we hope, that there will always remain a certain partition of driving by yourself," Kariya-san said. The idea of a partition between robots and humans is one that really appeals to us and is something gearheads desperately want to hear automakers say when it comes to self-driving cars. When you want to drive you should be able to, and the car shouldn't hold anything back. We suspect that Kariya-san will push for the joy of driving to be preserved. He said the 10th-generation Civic's "dynamic performance" was the aspect of the car he's most proud of. You can't really experience dynamic driving when a robot is calling the shots.

When it comes to the eco-friendly future of cars, Honda thinks much like Toyota. That is to say that both Japanese automakers see hydrogen fuel cells as the future, not EVs or hybrids. However, Kariya-san knows that electrification is the way forward in the short term. "As a long term future, we still believe, as we have been communicating all the time, our long-term propulsion system is still the fuel cell. From an efficiency point of view, from pollution point of view, from a performance point of view, from habit of handling point of view, from a practicality point of can just recharge in minutes. However, until that comes to be normal, and it's still a long way, electrification is a very important aspect."

Honda currently offers the Accord Hybrid and is planning to launch the Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle sometime before the end of 2016. But its eco-friendly past is checkered. Both the Fit EV and the CR-Z hybrid hatchback lived short, uneventful lives. (RIP to the Insight as well.) That being said the Civic was previously offered as a hybrid. Is a revival in the works? "Talking about the current 10th-generation Civic platform, that platform is designed to incorporate a hybrid system. Although at the moment there's no plan for a hybrid model. But it is designed to incorporate such a system. It was designed at the beginning to do so. But we're ready, it just depends on the market. We believe in the future of electrification," Kariya-san stated.

To us that sounds like a Civic Hybrid is in the beginning stages of being brought to life. Why would you design the Civic to incorporate such technology if you had no plans of implementing it? Honda is likely doing market studies to see where a hybrid Civic, plug-in hybrid and EV would do best. Here's hoping that at least one variant of the Honda Civic Hybrid has a little Acura NSX in it, just to keep the whole dynamic performance feeling alive.

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