Honda is increasing its spending on research and development in three future areas: rockets, robotics, and eVTOL electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, otherwise known as flying cars, according to the Arab Gateway for Technical News.
The automaker is spending $45 billion on research and development over the next six years, but Honda won’t say what portion of that amount is spent on developing rockets, robots and flying cars, not even if it plans to pursue these projects as a business.
The company considers robots, missiles, and eVTOL planes to be an extension of its core car manufacturing business, and if the company can get a better electric car platform, for example, it’s worth the investment.
And the company basically wants to see if it can make prototypes before taking the next step.
“The core technologies in these areas are relevant to our current business,” the company said. We are pursuing these new areas as an expansion of our core business as a transportation company.
The company says it is looking into eVTOL aircraft that could be used as part of an urban taxi service.
But unlike most start-ups that make lightweight, multi-purpose vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, Honda says it is seeking a hybrid solution as a way to get what customers want.
Honda says battery-powered electric planes will only be able to achieve a maximum range of several tens of kilometres.
By using fuel turbines to integrate with the electric motor, they are able to achieve a range of up to 400 kilometres, enabling more commercially viable flights.
The company says it is making a decision on whether to pursue commercial air taxi service before 2025. The goal is to obtain regulatory certification and launch a new service by 2030.
Honda is not the only automaker to have expressed interest in eVTOL, and others, such as Toyota and General Motors, have invested in prototypes and concepts.
The robotics division aims to develop multi-fingered hands that can pick up and grab certain objects.
The company is looking at how to do this with remote operation, where a human wearing a virtual reality goggle and attached glove can operate the robotic hand.
Honda is a pioneer in the field of robotics, having developed Asimo, one of the first robots to walk on two legs. But the automaker discontinued Asimo in 2018 in order to focus on using the technology for more practical use cases in nursing and road transport.
The company envisions employees using digital screen Avatars to attend remote meetings and interact with physical objects.
This allows people to live where they choose without the constraints of workplace obligations, the company said.
Honda hopes to bring propulsion, steering and control technologies to work together via a reusable rocket program.
The automaker began developing missile technology in 2019.
If it can use such missiles to launch small, low-orbit satellites, it can develop its core technologies into various services, including connected services.
The auto industry is undergoing a major transformation right now, with most major companies pledging to phase out petrol vehicles in favor of electric vehicles.
Honda is no different, pledging to stop selling internal combustion engine cars by 2040, a very expensive and risky venture, as US consumers have been slow to embrace electricity.