Honda is adding features to its $20,000 Honda Civic LX that will make the entry-level car able to drive itself down the highway, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Drivers can take their hands off the wheel and their feet off the pedals when the car's driving in highway conditions with clearly visible lane markings and a vehicle in front for the Civic to follow, according to the report. Carmakers are increasingly adding features such as automatic lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic breaking to lower-end models, according to the Journal. General Motors is reportedly set to launch a version of the Chevrolet Cruze with similar features later this year.
While manufacturers emphasize that the cars aren't intended to be fully self-driving like the vehicles famously being tested by Google, federal regulators are interested in making the technologies, collectively known as "advanced driver assistance systems," available in more vehicles to help prevent accidents often caused by increasingly distracted drivers, according to the report.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to soon include crash-avoidance technologies in its 5-Star Safety Rating program, the agency said in December. The program already includes a checklist of recommended features designed to boost driver awareness, including rear-facing cameras and warnings when the car is about to depart its lane or have a forward collision, according to the agency.
"NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the changes in December. "The changes provide more and better information to new-vehicle shoppers that will help accelerate the technology innovations that saves lives."