Although the Japanese company Honda is widely known as one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world and also the largest manufacturer of motorcycles, it is increasingly on the front edge of technological innovation outside the automotive world. The company’s investment in research and development landed it on the “Top 20 R&D Spenders” list that includes five other automakers but representatives from other industries as well. Based upon the innovations Honda has shared publicly, it’s using some of this R&D budget to get ready for the 4th industrial revolution by using AI and big data to not only design safer and more personalized autos, but also create robots.
“Maximizing the joy of driving”
With the tremendous amount of data that’s created from a wide variety of sources including sensors on cars, customer surveys, smartphones and social media, Honda’s research and development team uses data analytics tools to comb through data sets in order to gain insights it can incorporate into future auto designs. As the company’s big data maturity has increased, its engineers are learning to work with and leverage data, that had previously been to cumbersome to find meaning, thanks to the assistance of big data technology and analytics tools. There are more than 100 Honda R&D engineers who are now trained in big data analytics. Thanks to the sensors on Honda vehicles and feedback from customers, the team is able to make adjustments to the design of its fleet for things they would have never realized were an issue without the data insight. The analytics tools help Honda “explore big data and ultimately design better, smarter, safer automobiles,” said Kyoka Nakagawa, chief engineer TAC, Honda R&D.
As a $200 billion global automotive manufacturer with more than 20 million customers, IBM Watson Explorerhelps Honda’s quality assurance division understand the messages and make sense of the enormous amount of customer feedback, mainly unstructured, they receive from multiple sources. It has helped Honda reduce the time required to understand customer feedback by 80%, certainly an essential element to the company’s success.
Develop new vehicles
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Honda unveiled its NeuV, New Electric Urban Vehicle. It comes with a personal artificial intelligence assistant, HANA (Honda Automated Network Assistant) who can read the driver’s emotions and adjust the music, temperature and more in response. HANA can also remind the owner of important dates and help make reservations and appointments. Realizing that around 96 percent of the time vehicles are in garages, parking lots and driveways, Honda’s NeuV would be an automated ride-sharing vehicle that could be summoned to pick up and drop people off when the owner is not using it thereby becoming more valuable to the owner because it can monetize its downtime. Engineers also envision that NeuV would be able to sell energy back to the electric grid when it isn’t in use. Honda’s concept for the NeuV vehicle combines artificial intelligence, big data and robotics in a way that can transform commuting.