Mazda Co-Pilot is a new advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) that Mazda says it will offer in its larger models beginning in 2022 and will deploy in other vehicles in the years ahead. This stated timeframe and vehicle class suggest that the next-generation Mazda CX-9 crossover SUV will be one of the first Mazdas equipped with Mazda Co-Pilot technology.
As this article is published, it is unclear what, aside from the Mazda CX-9, constitutes a “large product” within the Mazda family. The automaker’s recently announced “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” business plan once again confirms it will debut an inline 6-cylinder gasoline engine and outlines plans for an electrified rear-wheel-drive platform with available all-wheel drive. Expectations are that this new platform and engine will spawn mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the next-generation CX-9.
At least one other model in the automaker’s lineup is likely to use this new vehicle architecture. While Mazda has already announced plans to discontinue the current Mazda6 sedan after the 2021 model year, the company will likely replace it with a long-rumored entry-luxury car previewed by the Mazda Vision Coupe concept vehicle. Together, the next-generation CX-9 and a production version of the Mazda Vision Coupe concept would assist Mazda in achieving its goal of rising into premium-brand territory.
Mazda Co-Pilot ADAS will also help support the move upscale.
Calling it a “human-centric autonomous driving system,” Mazda says it will roll out Mazda Co-Pilot in stages that it calls “building blocks.” In keeping with this approach, Mazda Co-Pilot 1.0 will add automatic emergency stop assistance to the automaker’s existing collection of ADAS, currently offered under the i-ActiveSense umbrella.
Mazda already installs a radar-based adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go capability, a lane-keeping assistance system, and a driver monitoring system in its vehicles. Some of the company’s models now offer Traffic Jam Assist, which adds low-speed lane-centering assistance at speeds under 40 mph.
Expect Mazda Co-Pilot 1.0 to refine these features further while adding a full-speed-range lane-centering assistance technology that gives the automaker’s upcoming “large products” Level 2 hands-on assisted driving capability at higher speeds.
Mazda confirms that Co-Pilot 1.0 will also be able to detect “a sudden change in the driver’s physical condition.” In other words, if the driver falls asleep or suffers a medical emergency, the technology will spring into action. It will switch to an autonomous driving mode, drive to a safe location, stop the vehicle, and place an emergency call to summon help.
One of Mazda’s priorities with its “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” plan is to develop a next-generation electrical architecture that supports standardized in-vehicle communications and connected services platforms. Mazda says it has partnered with five Japanese automakers to achieve this goal and that over-the-air updates will update and improve the software over time.
This announcement suggests that Mazda Co-Pilot will be a beneficiary of this approach. Expect the technology’s capabilities to expand over time, resulting in a Mazda Co-Pilot 2.0 update and beyond.
But what about Mazda’s goal to deliver joy while driving? Here is the company’s official statement on the subject:
“In line with our corporate vision, Mazda aims to become a brand that creates special bonds with customers by enriching their lives with an experience of car ownership that provides joy of driving, the pure essence of cars.”
This suggests that while Mazda is moving toward electrification and semi-autonomous driving technologies in alignment with the overall automotive industry, it will preserve an owner’s ability to drive the vehicle when preferable. This is how BMW plans to adapt its reputation for crafting the ultimate driving machines with self-driving cars’ coming future.