Honda Motor said it will be the first automaker in the world to mass-produce sensor-loaded Level 3 self-driving cars that allow drivers to give their vehicles the liberty to automatically weave through congested road traffic.
The feat is possible after Japanese regulators gave TJP autonomous tech a safety clearance, allowing drivers to actually take their eyes off the road while the system is activated.
The carmaker had to comply with several requirements, including guarantees of six months of automatic driving data recording and an "automated drive" sticker, Engadget reported.
The Society of Automotive Engineers defines six levels of driving automation ranging from fully manual (0) to fully autonomous (5). Level 5 cars would in essence have no steering wheel or other controls and can handle all types of terrain and weather conditions without human intervention.
SAE Level 3 is the first that falls under a category that many automotive experts feel pass the standard as autonomous. This level still requires that a driver be able to take over the wheel when the situation calls for it, while Levels 4 and 5 have no such requirement.
Several car companies have already built vehicles that feature Level 3 autonomy, but a handful of countries have legal blueprints to allow their sale and use.
Tesla has also rolled out its own self-driving capability in its vehicles in a beta program, but critics say that despite its name, the technology is actually not a fully-functioning automated system
The race to manufacture self-driving four-wheelers is a major tech battlefront for carmakers with technology companies like Google parent Alphabet Inc. also pouring billions of dollars in an industry seen to lift car sales.
Honda's unveiling of a Level 3 Legend next year will be one monitored by the government and car aficionados around the globe as one of the pioneering real tests of a mass-built and state--approved autonomous system.