Honda Autonomous Vehicle: How Japan Has Raised The Bar For Autonomy And Cybersecurity

Tokyo skyline

Earlier this month Honda received approval for its level 3 autonomous vehicle, the Legend Sedan from the Japanese Transport Ministry.  The level 3 technology supported, will be used in congested traffic conditions and on expressways.  This new Honda autonomous vehicle, supporting Level 3 technology is due to launch in March 2021 in Japan. 

What Honda has achieved is certainly impressive and hails a major milestone in the evolution of autonomous technology. It is the first time that a Level 3 vehicle has been approved for use on public roads. It comes on the back of the Japanese government’s efforts to promote the development of autonomous technology, by the Japanese automotive industry.  Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to the deployment of autonomous driving.  In April of this year, new laws were introduced to allow for level 3 autonomous vehicles to be used on public roads. These laws support use cases such as reading or watching TV in slow traffic conditions when the level 3 systems take control of the driving functions.

The next generation of autonomous systems

With the launch of the Legend Sedan, the profile of autonomous driving technology is set to be raised even higher in the public consciousness.   However, is also underlines why cybersecurity needs to be a key ingredient of next generation vehicles.  As human involvement in driving the vehicle decreases, the level of protection provided for vehicles needs to increase.   With many of the next generation autonomous systems being connected to cloud- based platforms that enable vehicle to vehicle communication (providing updates on driving conditions and C-V2X solutions) the potential number of attack vectors is rapidly increasing.


Therefore, it is no coincidence that along  with a strong focus on autonomous technology, the Japanese government is also leading the way when it comes to the adoption of next generation automotive cybersecurity regulations.  Japan will be one of the first countries in the world to formally adopt the upcoming UNECE WP.29 Cyber Security and Software Over-The-Air regulations.  These regulations will come in to force in Japan during 2021, almost a year ahead elsewhere in the world, including the European Union and most other member countries that have signed up to adhere to them.

As we move in to 2021, Japan is set to be the must-watch market with regards to both autonomous driving and next generation cybersecurity.   In particular, the requirements of the new WP.29 regulations do not only impact OEMs, but the whole supply chain. Any vendor providing software as part of its solution, is likely to find itself being asked to provide documentation to support the security aspects of the new regulations. This will likely include outlining how it has protected and validated its software against various threat scenarios detailed in Annex 5 of the new WP.29 regulations.   The way in which the Japanese OEMs and their related vendors address these challenges, will undoubtedly  set the bench market that for other countries around the world.

What level 3 means for cybersecurity

At Trustonic, we believe that cybersecurity will become the starting point for new vehicle design moving forwards. This will not be an easy transition. The Auto industry is already being redefined by the move to software driven value, cloud services, electrification, and many other structural changes.  However, as we have seen in other industries such as mobile devices, selling advanced technologies and solutions is more impactful when based on a foundation of trust between the vendor and its consumers.   For mass adoption of level 3, and higher, autonomous vehicle occupants, must have absolute trust and faith that the technology will not only protect them from crashes, but also from being hacked by malicious 3rd parties.

Being able to validate the integrity of the sensors and related systems used by autonomous solutions, every time the vehicle starts will be crucial in protecting the vehicle occupants.  This will include the encryption or provision of tamper proof in-vehicle network communications, attesting connections the cloud or other vehicles, and secure updating of vehicle systems. Proactively embracing the new cybersecurity regulations and approaching cybersecurity as a philosophy, rather than an activity, will be defining aspects of companies.  For companies that can build this level of trust, will be the ones who ultimately thrive in the next phase of the industry.

Autonomous technology undoubtedly has the potential to transform the automotive industry, and the experience for vehicle occupants.  It is not a question of if this will hand over control,  but rather will vehicle users trust these systems enough to allow them to take control?

Find out more about how Trustonic can support you in developing your secure next generation autonomous connected car security solutions.

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