MOUNTAIN VIEWJust how important is Silicon Valley to Honda nowadays? Important enough that Honda chose to commemorate today’s grand opening of an expanded research and development facility in Mountain View, California by unveiling a brand-new car. Not a new car line, we should clarifyjust the 2016 Accord that Honda executives describe as “the most hi-tech Accord in history.” Appropriate, given the Silicon Valley tie-in.
Honda’s Silicon Valley roots aren’t new, as the auto manufacturer has actually had an R&D presence in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2000. Today’s rededication of sortsin an expanded R&D facilitysymbolizes Honda’s renewed interest toward integrating some of the best aspects of today’s technological landscape into its increasingly sensor-friendly (and sophisticated) vehicles.
And Honda doesn’t mind having some pretty established neighbors, either.
“Much of the fundamental technological progress we all hope to achieve requires both a strong cooperative and competitive spirit. There’s tremendous opportunity for everyone in this space, be it Honda, or Ford, or Tesla, or Apple,” said Frank Paluch, president of Honda R&D Americas.
Honda didn’t unveil any pricing or timelines for the new 2016 Accord, but it will be the very first Honda vehicle to support both Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. That combination is also a bit rare for the automotive world right now. Many car manufacturers have been quick to dabble in one “smart car” platform or the other, but not both simultaneously.
The 2016 Accord will also come with a number of different technologies designed to further Honda’s grand aspirations of keeping its cars from crushing others (or you, from crushing your Honda cars). That includes the full suite of Honda Sensing capabilities, like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a Collision Mitigation Braking Systemto name a few features.
Today wasn’t just about Honda’s new vehicle, though. The company set up a number of different stations at its R&D facility to highlight some of the technologies its either working itself or partnering with other Silicon Valley companies to figure out. Among these was a hands-on demonstration of gesture-based car controls, done in partnership with San Francisco’s Leap Motion. By performing various gestures overtop a Leap Motion sensor, a driver could select a devicelike a side mirrorand change its position by moving a hand around in mid-air. Pointing to a nearby fan and twirling a finger also let a driver or passenger adjust its speed. (Insert your own Minority Report joke here.)
Honda also ran live demonstrations of its work on pedestrian-sensing technologies. In what must be the most thankless job in Silicon Valley, some Honda employees spent a chunk of the afternoon walking out in front of a (slowly) moving Honda vehicle to demonstrate Honda’s work in recognizing road obstacles (like cars, bicycles, or people) and automatically braking on a driver’s behalf.
Though a lot of this driver-assisted technology could be used in self-driving vehicles, Honda executives were quick to note that the company isn’t necessarily trying to push its cars to drive themselves.
“Although a self-driving vehicle is one potential outcome of this technological revolution, the real value is the ability of technology to reduce and ultimately eliminate vehicle collisions, injuries, and fatalities,” Paluch said.
According to Paluch, Honda wants its car technologies to cut all auto accidents in half by 2030auto accidents involving Honda vehicles, that is. By 2050, the company is looking to eliminate Honda accidents entirely.