A Honda success proves there’s a demand for the driverless car

When I first drove the Honda Jazz in 2010 I was pretty damning about its appeal to a driver.

I wrote: ‘For real drivers, sitting on the top deck of a bus reading your favourite motoring magazine will give you many times the driving pleasure than you’ll find with the Jazz’.

I did, however, concede that the car was, and remains, one of Honda’s most popular models selling millions worldwide since its launch in 2001.

And having just driven the latest model, I can report that nothing, whatsoever, seems to have changed with the driving experience in the intervening years.

It remains possibly the least challenging, aka boring, driving experience in personal transport today. A cyclist would derive more mobility stimulation navigating the city on a Christiana cargo-bike.

However, what has changed is its technology package that matches, and in some cases far exceeds, that offered by top-flight executive cars some six years ago.

There's its Honda Connect infotainment system offering a seven-inch touchscreen, internet browsing, real-time news, traffic, weather and internet music stations.

Its Driver Assist Safety Pack uses a camera and mid-range radar for forward collision warning, reactive speed limitation, cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high-beam automatic dipping and lane departure warning. This last feature will have ‘real’ drivers tearing their hair out in frustration on minor roads where a movement across the carriageway to increase sight-lines with have the silly little thing bleating like crazy!

In fact, probably the only thing a traditional motorist will appreciate in a car aimed at drivers-who-don’t-want-to is the gem of a 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol engine. While a little bit noisy when pushed, it is sublimely smooth throughout the rev range and really gains pace well. It handles high-speed motorway cruising with ease and all the while delivering a real-world average fuel consumption of 47mpg. It’s little wonder that Jaguar-Land Rover send engineers down to Honda’s Swindon plant to see how top notch engines are manufactured.

Yet, to my mind, the Jazz’s real place in automotive history is as a weather vane for whether the car buying consumer is ready for fully autonomous driving. Its success in global sales must be seen as delivering a resounding ‘Yes!’ That’s because anyone who appreciates its sheer ease-of-use must also welcome the ultimate mobility convenience tool, the driverless car.

And to this end, the Jazz can be seen as one of the best mass market instruments heralding the move towards an autonomous future by sounding all the right notes for consumers eager to give up driving themselves.

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