Strategy

Research and Development

Value Creation from an Independent Entity

In 1960, Honda spun off the research and development division from Honda Motor Co., Ltd. as an independent entity with the founding of Honda R&D Co., Ltd.

As expressed by words of Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda, “What I am researching is not technology, but rather what people like,” the aim of Honda’s research is not just to research technologies but to also undertake research that extends to people’s values. This is because researching people’s values will enable Honda to create new value through the cultivation of unexplored domains.

Honda R&D has separate research centers for the motorcycle, automobile and power products businesses to research and develop products. These research centers have established structures in their respective regions to carry out highly efficient product development in accordance with the products and market characteristics of each business. Additionally, Honda R&D promotes wide-ranging in-house development that encompasses products as well as technologies for raw materials and elements. This has enabled Honda to gain a deep understanding of these technologies and allowed for the creation of proprietary technologies and products using unique concepts. The research centers share research results with one another for effective usage, while working to develop products suited to local markets and to gather information on leading-edge technologies and markets through cooperation and coordination with local regions. Moreover, in response to recent technological innovations and industrial changes, Honda has declared a commitment to joint development and collaboration with a wide range of technological and business partners and is firmly pushing ahead with these efforts. Besides advancing existing businesses, the aim is to drive innovation that transcends conventional fields.

Besides these centers, at the Fundamental Technology Research Center, research has been conducted based on diverse ideas that give an insight into the future. From here, aircraft, aircraft engines, fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen production stations and walking assist devices have been commercialized. In addition, robotics technology developed at the center has been used for posture control for racing motorcycles and in automated driving research for automobiles. The center was transformed into R&D Center X in 2017 with the aim of creating further new value.

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Large Weight Reduction by Reviewing the Basic Body Frame from Materials and Joining Methods

Along with a full model change for the N-Box, the top-seller in Japan’s minivehicle category for three consecutive years, Honda redesigned approximately 90% of components, beginning with a newly designed platform and powertrain, to reduce weight by around 80kg even while installing enhanced safety features and other functions.

For the body, where the largest weight reduction was achieved, Honda expanded the use of high-tensile strength steel sheets*1 to allow the use of thinner materials while ensuring sufficient strength. As a world-first*2, Honda utilized the 1180MPaclass high-tensile strength steel sheet, which up to now was used mainly for inner frame reinforcement due to the difficultly in shaping, for the outer panel of the center pillar*3.

Honda also effectively introduced new production technologies such as shifting from usually applied spot welding to seam welding and joining surfaces by high viscosity adhesive materials to increase the body rigidity while significantly reducing weight. In addition, Honda reviewed body structure to improve crashenergy absorption during collisions and enhanced crash safety performance at the same time. These advancements enabled Honda to complete the basic body frame, which simultaneously realized improved cabin space and collision safety performance, high rigidity, secure and fun driving experiences as well as excellent fuel economy.

*1 Steel sheet with tensile strength higher than that of ordinary steel sheet
*2 Honda survey (as of August 2017)
*3 A pillar-shaped material that connects the body with the roof between the front seat and rear seat. It is visible when getting in and out of a vehicle and is an essential component for body strength.

N-Box weight reduction

Innovation Management

Promoting Open Innovation That Accelerates Research & Development in New Fields

Honda has been striving to evolve mobility and the daily lives of people all around the world as part of our 2030 Vision. This requires R&D in new domains in addition to the existing motorcycle, automobile, power products and aircraft domains.
The potential for creating new value is growing in increasingly diverse fields in line with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), big data and other digital technologies. Honda sees this as a favorable opportunity and is focusing on R&D in more new areas.

In addition, Honda is taking a proactive approach to open innovation, which encourages strategic ties with innovative partners. There is no denying that development in a closed environment would not be able to keep pace with the speed of change in today’s world.
To enable a swift response, Honda is embracing open innovation. Based on the concept of “AI × Data × Honda’s strengths,” we are working toward Mono-zukuri (the art of making things) and Koto-zukuri (new experiences drawn from the art of making things) that provide new value in harmony with people as an extension of our manufacturing projects up until now.

Opened R&D Center X

In April 2017, Honda established R&D Center X, which takes a non-traditional approach to assume responsibility for R&D in “new value” areas ahead of new challenges.

R&D Center X will conduct R&D with a focus on long-term strategy in consideration of Honda’s ideal image for 2030 and with 2050 as its starting point. In robotics, one of Honda’s R&D domains, we aim to realize a robotics society that will further highlight the inherent greatness of human beings in areas that include autonomously operated machines and systems, such as mobility systems in addition to robotics technology, and energy management, which is necessary to power them. The Center has stated 3E (Empower, Experience, Empathy) as the concept behind its R&D.

In February 2017, Honda opened Honda Innovation Lab Tokyo in Akasaka, Tokyo, as a new hub to promote open innovation prior to the establishment of R&D Center X. We have received a high number of inquiries already as a space for strategic ties with outside entities and there are high expectations that it will produce significant results in the future.

3E Concept

3E

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Proposing a Robotics Society at CES 2018

Honda once again took part in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest trade show in the consumer electronics field held in the United States in January 2018. The Company’s exhibit was centered on Honda’s 3E concept and proposed a robotics society that will further highlight the inherent greatness of human beings, one of Honda’s aims. A concept model of a robot embodying 3E was presented at the venue, attracting the attention of visitors.

The 3E-A18 can communicate and interact with people.

The 3E-A18 can communicate and interact with people.

The 3E-B18 empowers people to be mobile in a variety of situations.

The 3E-B18 empowers people to be mobile in a variety of situations.

The 3E-C18 can learn by observing and serves as a platform for product sales and mobile advertising.

The 3E-C18 can learn by observing and serves as a platform for product sales and mobile advertising.

The 3E-D18 supports people in a broad range of work activities on grueling terrains.

The 3E-D18 supports people in a broad range of work activities on grueling terrains.

Roles of Honda R&D Innovations

In 2015, Honda established Honda Xcelerator, an open innovation program headquartered in Silicon Valley. With locations in Silicon Valley, Detroit, Europe, Israel, China and Japan, Honda Xcelerator serves as a catalyst to discover new technologies and proactively seeks to partner with startups globally. The program helps startups with innovative ideas through access to a collaborative workspace, test vehicles and support from Honda mentors. Focus areas of development for the program include energy, human machine interface (HMI), personal mobility, automated driving, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, advanced materials and industrial innovation as part of aims to revolutionize mobility and energy management.

Silicon Valley-based Honda Innovations (Honda R&D Innovations, Inc.) is the driving force behind Honda Xcelerator. Honda first established Honda Research Institute, established in Silicon Valley in 2000 and added a corporate venture capital (CVC) function in 2005. In 2011, the CVC group became part of Honda R&D Americas, transforming into an open innovation lab called Honda Silicon Valley Lab. In April 2017, the lab became Honda Innovations, an independent new company with an expanded mandate — a global role for R&D in new value areas, growing from development focused on the conventional automobile. The new company, Honda Innovations, has taken on the role of discovering and developing new technologies, focusing on near-future developments.

Honda Innovations has already partnered with a number of startups and is pushing ahead at the speed of Silicon Valley. Honda Innovations also partners closely other Honda R&D facilities in Japan and overseas in a push toward viable future application. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Honda Xcelerator has established a network of satellite operations in Boston, Israel, Detroit, Europe, China and Japan.

In 2014, Honda Innovations also established “Honda Developer Studio,” an open innovation program focusing on new services, connected vehicles and applications leveraging Honda products, such as the automobile as a platform. Development is focused on such areas as new services and payment systems as well as in-vehicle entertainment for passengers.

Honda Innovations serves as the open innovation hub for Honda globally and leverages several tools to share information and promote interdepartmental collaboration. One such tool is an internal newsletter shared with Honda engineers and researchers around the world. Also, a “Demo Day” is held twice a year to introduce the latest technology trends and technologies under development, and anyone from Honda who wishes to participate can do so. Demo Days help to uncover the needs of engineers and researchers, provide hands on experience and spread the culture of open innovation throughout Honda.

Honda will continue to proactively promote open innovation and pursue development in new value areas at the global level.

Global development of Honda Xcelerator

Global development of Honda Xcelerator