2016 Honda Civic: autonomous features for $20K

When NHTSA announced yesterday that 20 manufacturers had agreed to include automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems as standard equipment on all new cars by 2022, many people noted that plenty of cars you can buy right now have this technology on board. You might think that in 2016, this is expensive equipment available only on luxury cars, but the Honda Civic sedan would beg to differ. The Honda Sensing system is available for $1,000 on any trim level of the humble yet popular sedan’s latest version.

Now, this is not automated driving. You’re not going to sit in the driver’s seat of your $20,440 2016 Honda Civic and take a nap while it drives you to work. But you aren’t able to do that in a Tesla or an Audi yet, either. What we’re working with right now is known as advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS. Honda Sensing is a pretty typical example of what these technologies include:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control w/low-speed follow
  • Collision Mitigating Braking System
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Road Departure Mitigation

Engineers use the sensors and cameras that are becoming more common on cars to enlarge the safety bubble around your car through technology. In the case of Honda Sensing and AEB, radar and a camera scan in front of the Civic. If a collision seems possible, it alerts the driver via Forward Collision Warning with sound and a visual cue. If the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, the Collision Mitigating Braking System kicks in and can bring the car to a full stop. The system is sensitive enough to differentiate between another vehicle and a pedestrian, a key step toward fully autonomous driving.

It’s not yet a self-driving car, but the new Civic sedan does keep track of where you are in your lane on the highway. If you start to drift from the center without using your turning signal, the car will gently steer you back into place. If you leave your lane without a signal, you’ll get audio and visual warnings to bring your attention back to the road. And when you’re creeping along for your morning commute, the sensors will lock onto the vehicle in front of you and follow at a safe distance and speed so you don’t have to lurch forward and mash the brake every three seconds.

Honda’s Chris Martin says the company is able to offer this advanced level of ADAS as a $1,000 option (it’s standard equipment on the Civic Touring sedan) because they’ve been rolling it out across the company’s lineup for the past two model years. “Once you commit in higher volume,” Martin says, “the cost comes down.” You’ll also find Honda Sensing in the CR-V, Pilot and Accord.

Honda Sensing is about more than taking steps toward driverless cars. Honda has set a goal of reducing collisions in its vehicles by 2020 and being collision-free by 2050. A side-effect of that goal may be the ability to nap in your 2040 Honda Civic.