Honda Officially Joins the Rest of the World in EV and Autonomous Development

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Honda Motor Company finally expressed an interest in developing autonomous cars on Thursday, while also stating its intention to bring two new electric vehicles to market by 2018.

The Japanese automaker has been cautious in making tech-related promises, especially those that relate to self-driving models, even as many of its rivals wear their autonomous development efforts like a badge of honor.

We knew Honda was working on the technology, but any semblance of a goal-oriented timeline was absent prior to this week. As part of its “Vision 2030” strategy, the car manufacturer claims it will coordinate R&D, procurement, and manufacturing to minimize development costs as it branches out into the realm of self-driving and electric vehicles.

Last year, the automaker established a division exclusively tasked with developing electric vehicles. Honda’s previous assertion was that the real-world emission benefits of pure electrics didn’t justify their implementation, stating that the scope of automobile pollution extends beyond the particles that exit a tailpipe. That perspective, unusual for a car company, forced Honda to hold back on BEV development and focus on hydrogen power.

However, the whole world is pushing for electrics right now — even if few are scrambling to buy them. Whether or not Honda has changed its official stance on EVs, it’s going to change its product strategy to add two of them next year. One of the new electrics is reserved for sale in China while the other will be a global model. Light on details, the more worldly model will possess a high-density, lightweight battery designed for multiple applications. It is expected to first appear at the Frankfurt motor show in September and be a more capable BEV than the recent Clarity Electric.

Roughly two-thirds of the brands’ lineup is expected to be powered by alternatively fueled options by 2030.

Honda also announced plans to market a vehicle which can drive itself on highways by 2020, with a city-capable self-driving system arriving shortly thereafter.

“We will strive to achieve the technological establishment of Level 4 automated driving for personal car use by around 2025,” said Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo in a statement. “We are striving to provide our customers with a sense of confidence and trust by offering automated driving that will keep vehicles away from any dangerous situation and that will not make people around the vehicle feel unsafe.”

The automaker is already honing these systems. Honda showcased its progress at a media briefing at its Japan R&D center — an event which included test drives. The planned vehicles are likely to arrive a few years behind the competition, though Honda is not an automaker known for possessing a brazen attitude toward development. It’ll continue working hard on these projects and give you the keys to your autonomous EV when it feels ready — and not a moment sooner.

[Images: Honda]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Thelastdriver Thelastdriver on Jun 09, 2017

    Honda already had a perfectly good EV 20 years ago and crushed them all -- just like GM did. Look it up.

    • Stuki Stuki on Jun 09, 2017

      It may have been perfectly good, but it wasn't really good for anything. Nowadays, better batteries and accompanying infrastructure, allows BEVs a somewhat larger market for whom they are useful/optimal, than back then.

  • Stuki Stuki on Jun 09, 2017

    Interesting timeline, coming from Honda. I'll still believe it when I see it, as even those guys haven't really moved the ball too far in a genuinely practical direction with Asimo, after all these years.

  • Gray Juneteenth - 72 responses. Unusual Isuzu pickup - 18 responses. Happy Juneteenth.
  • Doc423 Said some automakers were slow to adopt the technology of Smartphone Mirroring, too bad they aren't slower adopting the EV technology, rather than cramming it down our throats.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys i was only here for torchinsky
  • Tane94 Workhorse probably will be added to the heap of failed EV companies.
  • Freddie Instead of taking the day off, how about an article on the connection between Black Americans and the auto industry and car culture? Having done zero research, two topics pop into my head: Chrysler designer/executive Ralph Gilles, and the famous (infamous?) "Green Book".