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Mazda Denies Future Self-Driving Models: ‘No Steering Wheel Is Not An Option’

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Mazda KAI CONCEPT taillights

Mazda, in general, has something of a philosophy toward being a driver’s car. Whether through redesigning its vehicle underpinnings or introducing systems that improve driving feel like G-Vectoring Control, Mazda has pursued Jinba-ittai, which is an intuitive, symbiotic relationship between driver and vehicle (originally applied to horses and riders).

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Basically speaking, Mazda wants people to enjoy driving their cars. So, it comes as not much of a surprise that, at the LA Auto Show, Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Masahiro Moro said that the automaker will just not be pursuing fully self-driving cars.

“No steering wheel is not an option for us,” he said. “Autonomous driving technology should just help so that a driver can continue to enjoy the car. If anything happens accidentally the technology can then override to take safe control and bring the driver back to the road.”

The kind of autonomy that Mazda is avoiding is called Level 5 autonomy, which is fully driverless automation, where driver input is not just unneeded but is in fact not possible.

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The other levels include Level 1, or “hands on” automation, where the car takes over some part of the drive, but the driver still operates other controls at the same time, like with Adaptive Cruise Control systems. Next after that is Level 2, or “hands off,” where the system handles steering, accelerating, and braking, although the driver is still meant to watch and be prepared to intervene, like with GM’s new Super Cruise system. Level 3, then, takes “hands off” to a new level, with full autonomy in a few, limited situations (so, about as far as we have gone as of yet). Finally, Level 4, or “mind off,” is autonomy where the driver can safely let the car control the drive without intervention.

That, according to Moro, is as far as Mazda is willing to go, although performed in such as way as to allow “driving dynamics between the car and driver.”

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