Of the four big Japanese OEMs, Honda has the deepest roots in scooters. From pioneering the GY6 engine/transmission form factor to their diverse lineup of scooters today, Honda has been intentional about scooters in a way Yamaha and Suzuki just haven’t. So a recent press release from Big Red has us very curious as to the future of their vehicles.
In short, Honda is partnering with technology company Softbank to design future vehicles with artificial intelligence (AI). While no specific vehicle segment was mentioned (cars vs. scooters), it’s fair to assume that Honda will be looking at the future use of AI across all of its transportation products. Here’s an excerpt of what they’re up to:
Through this joint research project, Honda and SoftBank will strive to enable mobility products to utilize conversations with the driver, together with other information obtained from various sensors and cameras installed on the mobility product, both to perceive the emotions of the driver and to engage in dialogue with the driver based on the vehicle’s own emotions. Moreover, by letting mobility products “grow up” while sharing various experiences with their drivers, the project will strive to enable drivers to experience the feeling that their mobility product has become a good partner and thus form a stronger emotional attachment toward it.
Put more simply, Honda want us to have a relationship with their vehicles. Not only would these future vehicles ostensibly have insights into our moods and needs in the moment, but the idea is that the vehicle would adapt to us over time and vice versa.
I’ve always felt like I’ve had a relationship with my vehicles over the years, whether on two wheels or four, that’s felt nearly tangible. The various quirks and character of the machine become almost comforting as they grow in familiarity. It would seem that Honda is trying to bring that relationship out of the abstract and into the cockpit of your favorite vehicle. Would this deepen the relationship? Would it get real old real quick? Do I want to have dialogue with my transportation? What happens if I buy a vehicle second-hand? Can I reset the AI? Is that some sort of virtual murder?
The prospect of AI in a vehicle definitely inspires the imagination. In the end, as with most technology, implementation will be everything. Will Honda’s AI be the sort of thing that’s so smart and well integrated that we don’t even notice it? Or will it simply add a layer of complexity to my simply trying to go for a ride?