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Mazda not rushing into autonomous cars

Driver wanted: Mazda is developing autonomous technology but it is not being bullish about when it will come to market.

Driver enjoyment the priority for Mazda as autonomous tech takes a back seat

3 Apr 2017

MAZDA is not set on following its automotive rivals by rushing to bring a fully autonomous car to market, with the company preferring to focus on driver enjoyment.

A number of mainstream and premium brands have been vocal about their intentions to have a fully autonomous vehicle in their fleet in the coming years, with some makes aiming for 2020.

Mercedes-Benz is actively working on self-driving technology, Honda has paired up with Google’s self-driving tech arm Waymo, Ford is already testing driverless Fusions in the US and GM is also working hard on the technology.

According to Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak, the Japanese car-maker is working on self-driving systems, but it is not the company’s key tech focus.

“We have a plan and we are certainly developing it,” he told GoAuto at the CX-5 media launch last week. “But our philosophy is still very much centred on the driver and we would like to maintain that. The guys in Japan are working through that strategy and how autonomous will fit in.”

Mr Doak highlighted Mazda’s suite of active safety technology – dubbed i-Activsense – that is classed as ‘level one’ autonomy, but reiterated the focus on driver engagement.

“Obviously we have i-Activesense with lane keep assist and those sort of things and we will continue to develop it. But for us it is not a priority. We don’t want to be the autonomous car company, we are all about horse and rider, man and machine and that is very much where we want to be.”

Level one autonomy is defined by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International as a vehicle where the driver must be ready to take control at any time.

It identifies active safety and driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, parking assistance with automated steering, and lane keeping assistance.

The i-Activsense introduced on the CX-5 includes adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, adaptive LED headlights, driver attention warning, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, a side camera and smart brake support.

Mr Doak said it would take longer than some car-makers are anticipating to get fully autonomous vehicles in showrooms and on public roads, given how complex the issues around regulation and legislation are.

“I think everybody has got this expectation that these things will all happen in five years, it’s going to take a long time. It is hugely complicated thing to do. It is not imminent. If it is then it is very much going to be a trial.

“There is a hell of a lot of difference between that and mass market and getting everybody in one, so I think it is a fair way off.”

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