Story & photos by Randy S. Peregrino
HONDA Motor Co.’s commitment in expanding human possibilities, as well as creating enriched lives through mobility, was derived from the idea to set course toward a new vantage point. During the recently concluded 45th Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese automaker showcased its vision of future transport by displaying concept EV vehicles for the society and mobility.
Common among the presented Honda Concept EV vehicles (Sport EV, Urvan EV, NeuV) was the AI artificial-intelligence (AI) technology, which provides that feeling of emotional unity to the driver.
HONDA developed the AI technology with the aim of creating a driving feel as if the car becomes a part of the driver’s will. Introduced as an integrated AI feature in the NeuV (pronounced as “new-v”) during the concept vehicle’s initial introduction was the manufacturer’s proprietary Honda Automated Network Assistant(Hana) system. This emotion engine will learn the driver’s various moods in order to provide assistance to the day-to-day driving habit. Imagine a system that determines the driver’s stress level from facial expressions and voice tones to support safer driving. Further, it has the ability to acquire the driver’s lifestyle and preferences, which, in turn, recommend options depending on the circumstances.
With the goal to develop autonomous cars in the near future, Honda recently teamed up with a Chinese IT firm SenseTime Group Ltd. Japan Times reported late last year that the automaker, through its subsidiary Honda R&D Co., inked a five-year joint research and development contract with the Hongkong-based IT firm known for its “deep learning” technology, which is considered as one of the most advanced AI concepts.
AMONG the Concept EV vehicles showcased, the Riding Assist-e EV bike was the lone two-wheeler. This self-balancing motorcycle of the future utilizes a proprietary balance control technology—developed for humanoids. The machine keeps its balance at low speeds, reducing rider burdens and makes riding easier. The model represents the manufacturer’s proposal for how it can offer motorcycle riders greater piece of mind and make life with motorcycles more fun for people.
Honda claims that this technology greatly reduces the possibility of failing over while the motorcycle is at rest. Moreover, it incorporates the same technology originally developed for the company’s UNI-CUB personal mobility device rather than relying on gyrospcopes, which add a great deal of weight and alter the riding experience.
UNI-CUB and Walking Assist
Apart from being overwhelmed with the grand display of the manufacturer’s collection of consumer and racing-oriented artifacts inside the transport museum, we were also left in awe after experiencing two of Honda’s fascinating consumer electronics.
First was the UNI-CUB Personal Mobility Device inspired by the company’s commitment on improving human experience through mobility technology. Just like a small stool to seat on to, it has a unique figure that allows you to move to any desired path by simply leaning toward to the direction you want to go. It was a little odd at first try, but after short awhile, you’ll be amazed how this diminutive machine can make an impact on your personal mobility.
Then there was the experimental Walking Assist device designed to support bodyweight in order to reduce the load on your legs. It is design to aid in lessening the fatigue with less physical effort from walking, accessing stairs, to even in a semi-crouching posture. By simply wearing the gadget around your waist like a belt bag, its two branches strapped on your lower thighs enables you to propel almost effortlessly. Further, it’s a lightweight dual motor device weighing only 14.33 pounds, including the battery pack. The machine’s remarkable support mechanism was in sync with every leg movement, and in fact, very much evident during the course of our trials by walking around the site, as well as going up and down the stairs.
“Honda will always research and develop new technologies and products for the joy of helping people and for the joy of driving, and will continue offering products that go beyond the expectations of our customers,” President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo said. “With our passion to please our fans and customers, Honda will continue to striving to expand our customers’ life’s potential through our technologies and products.”