The Honda Accord: The car that steers itself

Honda has trumped 'adaptive cruise control' with a hi-tech system that corrects dangerous steering as well as high speed. Sean O'Grady is in awe

Specifications
Price: £27,525 (as tested)
Engine: 2.4-litre petrol with an output of 190bhp
Performance: Zero to 60mph in 10 secs; 28.2 mpg
CO2: 229g/km
Worth considering: Volkwagen Passat estate, Volvo V70 estate; Peugeot 407SW

Poor old Honda. It makes some of the best cars on the market, but no one wants to know. Well, not quite no one. It made 3 million cars worldwide last year, so it's not that lonely for the company out there.

I suppose what I mean is its profile. Did you know that it used to make a Ferrari-beating supercar called the NSX? Or a Golf GTI-busting hot Civic named the Type R? Or a Prius-challenging hybrid saloon version of the Civic? Or a super-quiet tech-laden limo called the Legend?

(If you answered "yes" to any of those questions you obviously read too many motoring publications. Most people just think old folk drive Hondas. Honest.)

Most impressively of all, Honda makes a car - an Accord - that steers itself, will maintain a constant speed, brakes when it senses danger ahead and will help keep you out of a skid. It's that clever. It's called Adas, for Advanced Driver Assist System. It's much brainier than the VW Golf that will memorise a route and then drive itself, because this is a completely dynamic system that works in the real world and can be ordered at any Honda dealer right now. But it's the VW that made to the BBC Ten O' Clock News.

How does this Honda work? Well, it's got a camera mounted next to the rear view mirror that senses and monitors the white lines on the road and feeds data to a computer. The computer then applies the correct steering input to keep the car in lane. Radar sensors on the grille monitor the distance from the car in front and if the gap decreases too much then the Honda decelerates to maintain a safe distance. Quite a few top-end motors from the likes of Mercedes have "adaptive cruise control", but none has yet learnt to steer the car as well. And on an Accord too....

As you can see from our readers' remarks, it's an impressive system, even if it only works for brief periods when the car senses that you've not been touching the steering wheel, so it assumes you're drunk or asleep or just suicidal. In which case it will, for about half a minute, take over the steering, stop you drifting into the next lane and then start beeping to wake you Even this Accord can't steer you all the way home.

As you can also see from our readers' verdicts, it doesn't work all the time. It needs reasonably clear lane markings, so it isn't infallible. Having said that, I drove a similar Accord with Adas a few weeks ago in driving rain and it functioned OK, much to my surprise. But just like the most intelligent human beings, these clever Hondas can have their forgetful moments too.

Simon Hollingworth, 36, insurance underwriter from Manchester
USUAL CARS: JAGUAR XJ6 AND PEUGEOT 306

I liked the Accord as soon as I saw it. Its lines were smooth, and the interior was well appointed and logically laid out. The build quality seemed reassuringly high and it proved a smooth, quiet and comfortable drive, accelerating swiftly even with four on board. I had expected the advanced driver assistance system (Adas) to take a lot of acclimatisation, but it was straightforward once it had been explained. You could adjust the gap between you and the car ahead, which had been a possible concern of mine. It works very effectively and was unobtrusive in use, genuinely helping you to stay in your chosen lane and at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.

Charles Cowap, 48, and Michael, 12, surveyor and lecturer from Nantwich
USUAL CARS: VAUXHALL ZAFIRA 2.0 DTI, PEUGEOT 205 AUTOMATIC

A car that steers itself? We approached this test drive in trepidation, but the Accord was a great car. The advanced driver assistance system was easy to use. Adaptive cruise control was ideal for a crowded motorway, and the lane-control system was also a doddle, but it lost its way when the lane markings were worn and grey rather than white. The boot space was well thought out, with the remote control also lifting the boot lid (handy when your hands are full) and built-in safety nets. Seats were easy to fold down. Michael says: comfy seats, great sat-nav. Smooth ride, good family car.

Steve Kinrade, 39, Jake, 6, nurse from Prescot, Merseyside
USUAL CAR: MONDEO ZETEC ESTATE 1998 CC DIESEL

My main concern about a car is not how it looks, its brake horsepower or torque, but its capacity for safety and security. I have never felt more secure or safer in any car as quickly as I did with the Accord. I believe I drove the future. Adas will prove to be as revolutionary to passenger safety as the air bag has been. The system does not dictate to the driver, rather it puts a protecting arm around their shoulder, resulting in a confident and secure driving experience. All is controlled through a thumb-activated switch on the steering wheel - a shrewd move by Honda bearing in mind the up and coming text and Nintendo generation of drivers.

THE VERDICT

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