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Honda taking new routes in U.S. toward technological advancements

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 07:00
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In a series of moves likely to benefit inventors and vendors of cutting-edge automotive innovations, new Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo is implementing a heightened emphasis on developing advanced technologies while easing up somewhat on reaching what has been described as overly ambitious vehicle sales goals that have been over-extending the company’s existing engineering resources.

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Hachigo, who assumed the Japanese automaker’s top position in June, replacing Takanobu Ito, says the company is interested in exploring technological alliances with other OEMs along with further enhancing its in-house research and development efforts. He invites other industry vendors to contribute their own ideas and concepts.

In July Honda launched the significantly redesigned 2016 Accord at a ceremony saluting recently unveiled upgrades to the company’s Silicon Valley R&D facility.

The spotlighted rollout of the Accord “symbolizes our commitment to advanced technology and vehicle connectivity for the benefit of our customers,” says Nick Sugimoto, the California laboratory’s senior program director.

“This is the most high-tech Accord ever built, and now the highest-volume vehicle in the entire industry to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Upgrades to Accord technology also include the adoption of Honda Sensing, a comprehensive suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies,” he says.

“Through a new open innovation initiative, the just-announced Honda Xcelerator, we will provide resources to technology innovators to help rapidly develop prototypes with the potential to transform the automotive experience,” Sugimoto adds.

The program provides funding for proof-of-concept prototyping and a chance to work directly alongside company engineers in a collaborative atmosphere that encourages mentoring, according to Frank Paluch, an R&D divisional president.

Innovators will also have the opportunity to pitch their technologies to Honda’s global business units once their prototypes are developed. (More information can be obtained at a new specialized website: xcelerator.hondasvl.com.)

“As an industry, we are on the verge of some major transformational changes brought on by the convergence of what have been, to this point, largely disparate technology disciplines,” Paluch says. “Honda will embrace and help lead this convergence. Our operations in Silicon Valley are a testimony to our focus on this new direction in our product and technology development efforts.”

The Silicon Valley lab, which was first established in 2000, is dedicated to researching and prototyping game-changing innovations and harnessing new ideas and technology. Current areas of focus include connected mobility, novel human-machine interfaces, supporting app developers through initiatives such as the Honda Developer Studio and computer science research for vehicle intelligence, he explains. The engineers also spearhead the company’s continuing working relationships with other Silicon Valley-based technology firms.

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