Mazda is set to take a completely different, and slightly radical, approach to autonomous driving when it rolls out its Co-pilot Concept technology, which it plans to make standard in all its new cars by 2025.
Best summed up as “safety rather than lazy”, the Mazda approach is not to take the chore of driving away from customers – as systems like Tesla’s Autopilot aim to do – but rather to use autonomy only as a fallback system when required.
For Matsuhiro Tanaka, Mazda’s deputy general manager of vehicle development, it’s all about the primacy of “the joy of driving”.
Mr Tanaka wouldn’t say exactly what level of autonomy the company was aiming for, but clearly it was not interested in either Level 4, “hands off, eyes off”, or Level 5 “full autonomy”.
“The plan for what we call the Co-pilot system, for autonomous driving, we don’t have a certain level we’re aiming for, but what we are focused on is that it always has to be the joy of driving that comes first, then, should anything happen to the driver that renders the situation dangerous, then the autonomous driving functions will kick in and take them to a safe place,” he said.
“That’s our approach to the Co-pilot system.”
Mr Tanaka suggested that Mazda was not interested in getting involved in a tech race to see which car would be first to make driving unnecessary.
“If you look at the technical basis for what’s available, I don’t think that what the others have and what we have is any different; the difference is the objective of how we want to use it,” Mr Tanaka added.
“For us, the car is there for fun, the controlling of the car is where the fun is, and that will be our main focus when introducing the autonomous-driving technology.
“Our approach is that we want people to have fun with the car, to drive it themselves, and we only want to use this technology to avoid horrendous situations and in emergencies.”