Tech

Honda reveals eVTOL plans, future robots and dreams of helping colonize the moon


This one isn’t all electric.


Honda

On Thursday, Honda announced a massive new strategy to look beyond the automotive industry and into other areas. The company revealed plans for its first electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, new robotic advances and even plans to help bring sustainable life to the moon. Yes, we’re talking about the same company best known for building the Civic, Accord and CR-V.

Let’s break it all down, starting with the closest thing to a car in this announcement: the eVTOL. Honda recognizes there’s a growing appetite for this type of transportation and expects the industry to (wait for it…) take off in the decade to come. However, it also pointed out rivals bank on totally electric machines limited by their range. To counter this, Honda wants to build its own eVTOL with a gas turbine hybrid unit. Without range restrictions, Honda imagines its own helicopter-like contraption could take people between cities, and not just around a city. It’ll require a huge new ecosystem the company said it plans to invest in, but it plans to leverage many of the technologies it’s already developed, especially for the eVTOL itself.

Honda Avatar prototype robot

Today, a robot hand. Tomorrow? A full avatar perhaps.


Honda

Honda’s already pretty well known for Asimo, the cute robot helper that’s made waves for years now, but the next step is “avatars.” These are robots that take the place of you and I. Essentially, a human could perform a task without being physically present, but instead while controlling their avatar, which is really freaky. Honda specifically called this a “second-self.” To show its progress, the firm revealed a proof-of-concept in the form of a robotic hand with fingers. While a human provides input in a separate location, the robotic hand executes the moves. Right now, that includes grasping an object, handling a tool with the right amount of force and artificial intelligence to handle the remote functions. The possibilities surrounding the tech are wild, and Honda wants to show off its tech in greater detail come 2024. In the 2030s, it wants to put it into practical use.

If none of that is outrageous enough for the carmaker, we arrive at moon colonization. No, Honda doesn’t want to stake out its own territory on the moon, but it does want to help support future life there. With a new partnership between it and Japan’s NASA equivalent, JAXA, the two want to build a “circulative renewable energy system on the lunar surface.” This is all dependent on the likelihood of water on the moon’s surface, but essentially, Honda wants to use its fuel-cell technologies to produce lots of good things. A system using high differential pressure water electrolysis technologies decomposes the water, creating both hydrogen and oxygen. In Honda’s vision, the oxygen supplies living quarters with air for lunar colonists, while the hydrogen refuels rockets. Those rockets, by the way, are also part of Honda’s vision for reusable units. Right now, the goal is to create small rockets to support the launch of low-earth orbit satellites. In the future, they could play a part in space travel.

Got all of that? It’s a lot coming from Honda in one day, but the automaker promised these initiatives run alongside its core business; that’s the business of building and selling cars, in case you forgot. Basically, we’re in for a wild decade from Honda. And perhaps the Japanese automaker may help humans survive on the moon one day, if the company has its way.



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