Honda wants to spend more effort in research and development of rockets, robots, and flying cars or electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL). According to The Verge, the manufacturer will spend $45 billion on R&D over the next six years. However the company didn’t reveal the amount of money it will spend on developing futuristic technology, nor even if the results of the research will become a commercial business.

As a matter of a fact, Honda sees robots, rockets, and eVTOL as the next checkpoint of its main business of manufacturing automobiles. If the company achieves success in creating a good electric vehicle platform, then it will be worth the investment. The company tries the water before jumping into it.

“Core technologies in these areas are connected to our existing businesses,” said Marcos Frommer, head of corporate communications for Honda, in a briefing with reporters, “and we are pursuing these new areas as an expansion of our core business as a mobility company.”

Honda says it’s looking into eVTOL aircraft that could be used as part of an urban taxi service. But unlike most startups that are building lightweight, multi-prop vehicles that run on lithium-ion batteries, Honda says it will pursue a hybrid solution “as a means to realize the range desired by our customers,” Frommer said.

Flying Cars

Honda is confident that fully electric aircraft will only be able to overcome several 10s of kilometers. But, the hybrid vehicle with either gas turbines and electric motor, can achieve up to 250 miles enabling more commercially viable trips, like between Boston and New York City.

Honda says it will make a decision on whether to pursue a commercial air taxi service “before 2025,” with the aim of obtaining regulatory certification and launching a new service by 2030.

Honda is not the one in this game trying to enter a new market field. Toyota and GM have also invested in prototypes and concepts of eVTOL.

Honda’s robotics division is now working on “multi-fingered hands” that can pick up and grab objects. The company plans to develop a remote control system where a human with VR visor and connected glove can manipulate the robotic hand.

Robotic Arms

Robotics is not a new field for Honda. The company has already developed Asimo, one of the first robots to walk on two legs. The manufacturer wrapped up the production of Asimo in 2018 in order to focus on using the technology more practically. 

Honda AVatar Robot
Honda Avatar robot. Image credit: theverge.com

Honda envisions office workers using its “Avatar” robots with digital screens that replace the real face to remotely attend meetings and even interact with physical objects. Such technology gives people a choice where to live without stepping down their workplace.

Honda also aims to join the rocket developing club, but the company aims to work on a “reusable rocket” program, Frommer said. The automaker started developing rocket technology in 2019, he added. “If we can use such rockets to launch small low orbit satellites, we can expect to evolve our core technologies into various services, including connected services,” he said.