Honda autonomous ATV could save time, money — and in disasters, even lives

Honda's self-drive plans to be revealed at CES 2019

Honda is bringing its latest self-driving vehicle, a rugged ATV built for use in extreme conditions and, potentially, even on the front lines of large-scale disasters, to the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. The vehicle, called the "Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle," is based around the Japanese company's existing all-terrain vehicle, but comes fitted with a rugged drivetrain and array of sensors to help it maneuver through the most grueling conditions.

Shown as a concept last year at CES, Honda has used the intervening 12 months to test the Autonomous Work Vehicle (AWV) in three distinct real-world settings. Each had their own unique tasks and challenges, which helped test the AWV's ultimate capabilities, particularly its three programmable drive modes: "A to B," "Follow Me" and "Pattern."

These modes were catered to the three environments where Honda put the AWV to work. The settings included an agricultural and environment college in California, a solar energy company in North Carolina, and a wildfire rescue operation in Colorado.

The AWV's compact size and all-wheel drive capability, not to mention a high degree of build customization provided by a rail accessory mount system, allowed Honda's self-drive workhorse to tackle these different roles.

In North Carolina, it helped clear foliage around solar panels by using the "Pattern" mode, as it pulled a lawnmower behind it. This reduced the need for human labor — not to mention some hard-working and hungry sheep, according to Honda — to help keep the vegetation under control.

In Colorado, the AWV eased the workload of firefighters by employing the "Follow Me" drive mode. This allowed firefighters to traverse rugged terrain, while the AWV followed in their footsteps and carried the bulk of heavy equipment, such as water tanks and chainsaws.

Lastly, the "A to B" mode helped the Honda AWV adapt to work at the agricultural college in California, where it quickly transported crops directly from the field to packaging areas. It was also equipped with a sprayer system, to apply pesticides without any human intervention.

This year at CES, Honda is looking for additional partners to help make its self-drive technology even more adaptable to a wider variety of settings and situations. "Honda is looking for additional partners to evolve the technology and develop attachments or accessories that will expand the potential uses for the Autonomous Work Vehicle," said Pete Wendt, senior planner in Advanced Product Planning, Honda R&D Americas.

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