We have never experienced an automobile that seemed to be more intelligent than we are: but live and learn. There we were, driving a 2014 Acura RLX, up and down the hills above Napa Valley, experiencing this brand of technology whose goals are to make the driving experience more synergistic and equipoised between human and machine.
The ideal of human/machine synergy/balance is demonstrated in many ways, but one that Acura likes to highlight is the P-AWS, an acronym for precision all wheel steering. In this Acura, it is handled electronically, which means the wheels function independently. When we brake, the wheels move inward, keeping the car more stable. Then, there is the Adaptive Handling Assist system, which rotates the car into corners.
But wait there’re more – where Acura technology has the ability to be more aware of driving nuances than its driver. The Sedan we drove had the Lane Keeping Assist System, which helped the Acura keeps it in the lane, its camera-based intelligence actually steering the car away from a road line, when we went too far to the right or too far to the left. The Adaptive Cruise Control allowed the Acura to keep up with the cars ahead, slowing when they slowed, stopping when they stopped.
And of course, with the GPS virtual voice, speaking to us about where we were going, up one hill and down the other, the technical experience was unique, as we could take our hands off the wheel for a while, but why would we? The driving experience was exceptional, and no doubt because the engine was so smooth. The 3.5-liter V-6 has direct injection (DI) and cylinder cutoff, moving between six and three cylinders to save fuel when the demand is modest. Finally, we drove, sat on the passenger side and sat in the backseat – all were exceptionally comfortable. The backseat especially where many times tall people have the most trouble, was quite comfortable and spacious.
Acura’s flagship 2014 RLX starts at $49,345, including an $895 destination charge, when the luxury automaker’s largest sedan goes on sale March 15. The almost $50,000 entry fee includes numerous standard features like a 310-horsepower V-6 with direct injection, and “jewel-eye” LED headlights. These headlights, that we used driving on a very dark night in Napa, allowed us to see not only far ahead, but also clearly side to side, in this case into the wooded areas in the hills above Napa.
The idea of intuitive technology was never far from us, as we could understand the technology found in this solid, well-running automobile could be one of the evolutionary benchmarks moving toward the driverless technology of the future. We wanted to know more, so we interviewed John Watts, Senior Digital Manager of Acura/Honda, and a gentleman who has been on the inside track of the advent, challenges and future of this type of automobile technology.
Pursuitist: How do you see the upsides and challenges of ACURA’s intuitive technology?
John: I see many upsides of the intuitive technology, the first being just that, that is intuitive! We set out to design and develop a luxury sedan packed with cutting edge technology that enhance the driving experience. At Acura, we do not apply technology simply for the sake of saying we have it, we very carefully select them based on their ability to address the needs of the driver. For instance, our Lane Keep Assist system can take some of the angst out of daily driving by alert the driver that the RLX is out of lane and helps to return a vehicle to a location between the lines. The adaptive cruise control with low speed is another anxiety reducing technology that helps the driver maintain a prescribed distance between the car in front of him/her and will bring the car to a stop if the car in front stops. A situation that is typically encountered in urban driving.
One of the biggest challenges as I see it is getting prospective customers, particularly those who have been exposed to the very complicated systems found on European luxury competitors, to understand just how intuitive our technology is and how seamlessly it operates.
Pursuitist: The idea of a car having a mind of its own is a great idea. Do you see this being the wave of the future? What positive and more challenging issues can you see with this?
John: Many drivers, luxury car owners in particular, are still car and driving enthusiasts. Acura’s approach to technology is designed to enhance, not eliminate, the driving experience.
Pursuitist: Personally, I see this kind of potentially driverless technology challenges being generational ones. I think boomers may have to make greater adjustment to these things than gen x and y-ers. Do you see this happening?
John: I think that all ages will be receptive to adopting most technology. The fact of the matter is that drivers of all ages adapting to new vehicle technologies all the time. Many things about the vehicles have evolved over time, things you can see and touch like lighting technology and the operation of the audio system, navigation systems etc., as well as power train that you can’t see.
You’re right though, that there are always people who are more eager to utilize new technology. That’s why Acura’s intuitive approach to technology is meant to easily integrate technology into all driver experiences-not just those of any one demographic profile.
Pursuitist: How do you see Acura changing the face of driving? many see it as a task, but with this type of technology it can also be a very pleasant task…not one that tires you out but one that maintains the drivers health and consistency of awareness. How do you see the future of driving?
John: The future of driving will be different to the extent that more technologies are integrated into the drive experience than we ever before thought possible. Acura will continue to innovate and advance these developments.