Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle: self-driving that makes sense

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When we say we love cars, it goes without saying that it includes the experience of driving them. The masses might clamor for self-driving cars, but you can pry our steering wheels from our cold dead hands. However, Honda has come out with an autonomous vehicle that we actually think makes a lot of sense: a self-driving truck made for large worksites.

Honda recently completed a month-long test of its AWV, or autonomous work vehicle, on a massive solar array construction site. Workers used the four-wheel-drive electric wagons to move building materials around the 1,000-acre plot of land.

Based on a Honda Pioneer side-by-side, the AWV casts a slightly longer (114 inches) and slightly narrower 59 inches) shadow than a Smart ForTwo. Unlike the Pioneer, however, it comes at you with a friendly face that resembles that of the not-for-America Honda e electric compact or older Honda Acty kei trucks.

Honda created a high-definition map of the work site and set start and top points for the AWVs. The trucklets then used sensors and GPS to guide themselves and radar and lidar to detect obstacles along the way. Operators could check in via stereoscopic cameras as well, or could drive it via remote control on a tablet app if they wished.

For their size, the cargo capacity was fairly impressive. Each rig could carry a load of approximately 880 pounds, or tow a trailer of 1,653 pounds. The bed has a tailgate as well as folding bed walls on either side for easier loading, giving the AWV the overall appearance of a kei pickup with the cab chopped off. Unladen, each AWV weighs 1,590 pounds each.

Honda says that based on the results of this test, the AWV is ready to be adapted to other industries where materials need to be hauled in rugged environments. These kinds of repetitive driving tasks are an ideal fit for an autonomous vehicle and free up actual humans to work on other tasks.

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