New Car Warns Of Impending Crash

Honda Motor Co. has developed a new computerized radar system that warns drivers of an impending crash with slight braking and a tweaking of the seat belt.

The "collision mitigation brake system" will be offered on the most expensive model of the new Inspire sedan that goes on sale for $30,000 Thursday in Japan, Honda officials said Wednesday.

There are no plans to export the feature or the Inspire so far, but Japan's No. 2 automaker hopes the anti-collision system will some day become standard on all Honda models.

The system comes as part of a package of options and is not priced separately.

Japan's biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp., recently came out with a similar crash warning system, which is offered as an option for a luxury model sold only in Japan. Sales have been limited with less than 90 sold so far.

The Toyota system, which brakes and tightens the seat belt ahead of a crash, does not go on until the driver first steps on the brakes.

Honda's system is unique in working even before the driver responds.

A radar in the front of the car stashed behind the "H" logo detects vehicles within a range of about 300 feet ahead. The system initially pulls on the seat belt and brakes slightly to warn the driver. A buzzer also goes off and a small light flashes on the dashboard.

If the driver steps on the brakes, another system kicks in to strengthen the power of the brakes. If the driver fails to respond, the car brakes more and tightens the seat belt further to soften the blow of the crash.

Honda engineer Kenji Kodaka said other automakers are working on similar technology but don't offer such a feature on a commercially sold product yet.

The Honda system is not designed to stop the car completely because that would be against Japanese regulations, he said.

Even if that were to be approved, technological challenges remain to design a car that can assess its surroundings enough to come to a safe stop on its own, Kodaka said.