Honda Motor Co. just became the latest automaker revealing it plans to do way more than make autos. The competition for automakers no longer appears to be just to build the best car, truck or crossover, if Honda’s road map is any indication, it’s to be the best mover of people on Earth — and beyond.
The Japanese automaker laid out its vision for the future under the buzzword of “mobility.” Of course, the plans call for it to produce a slew of highly efficient, technologically advanced, zero emission vehicles that may or may not need humans to drive them.
However, it also followed the lead of several competitors, including Hyundai, Toyota, General Motors, Ford and more offering up its intention to build small personal aircraft powered by batteries, robots allowing humans to partake in experiences without actually being there, and to not just build rockets to leave the planet, but also the equipment needed to subsist on whatever celestial body it targets.
“All of the initiatives we introduced today are for the challenges Honda takes on in new areas, but the underlying passion of Honda to use our technology to make people’s lives more enjoyable remains unchanged,” said Keiji Ohtsu, president and representative director of Honda R&D Co. Ltd.
“Ever since the company’s founding, the wellspring of Honda’s challenges has always been the people at Honda who generate original technologies and ideas. Through the creation of new mobility, Honda will continue striving to change the value people place on mobility and make positive changes to our society.”
Beyond simple cars and trucks
The automaker naturally intends to “leverage its core technologies” while expanding into the great beyond that is “mobility.” The company noted its “committed to contributing to the realization of a society with zero environmental impact and zero traffic collisions, and also new initiatives that enable Honda to take on challenges in new areas.”
Those areas start somewhat close to home with its eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. The goal of this small aircraft is to make it easier — and quicker — to get from one city to another. Honda’s already got a leg up on the competition some would argue with Honda Jet. However, this craft would use Honda’s electrification technology for a gas turbine hybrid power unit for propulsion rather than conventional jet engines.
Not only would it help ease traffic on the ground — making that faster — it also opens up a new raft of economic possibilities. This new “mobility ecosystem” would be connected to Honda’s ground-based mobility products and services. Not only would there be more people required to handle the increase in air traffic, but also a slew services for charging and even concierge-style services catering specifically that ecosystem.
Creating and expanding the use of eVTOLs not only speeds travel, but reduces noise pollution since the motors powering these craft will be virtually silent. However, the all-electric models would be limited to intra-city trips, and could be used much like Uber or Lyft — giving the later access to some easily derived marketing options based on the name.
Bring on the avatars
Honda’s been producing robots for about four decades, making them do a variety of things, and the most famous being the bipedal ASIMO which can walk, talk and even pour a cup of coffee. However, the next iteration is an avatar robot designed to allow humans to participate in events virtually “without the constraints of time and place/space,” officials noted.
The avatar robot comes with a multi-fingered hand allowing the user to mimic their abilities to grip, hold and manipulate a variety of things. While the practical uses are many, they’re unlikely to be put into service until sometime after 2030. However, the first full-on demonstration is expected for March 31, 2024, officials noted.
“The greatest merit of an avatar robot, which can act as a second self of the user, is that the user can perform tasks and experience things without being there in person, including the realistic sense of handling objects remotely,” the company said.