Date
4 December 2016
Honda hopes a new research hub will lead to AI-enabled products that meet the needs of consumers. Photo: Bloomberg
Honda hopes a new research hub will lead to AI-enabled products that meet the needs of consumers. Photo: Bloomberg

Honda picks Tokyo over Silicon Valley for AI research center

Honda Motor has opted to headquarter its artificial intelligence (AI) research center in Tokyo, rather than Silicon Valley in the United States, as the automaker wants the researchers to work closely with its engineers to commercialize the technology.

The Japanese auto giant will start the new R&D center next year and combine existing AI teams in Silicon Valley, Europe and Japan at the downtown Tokyo location, Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, president of Honda’s research arm, told Bloomberg.

Having the research hub in Tokyo will facilitate closer interaction between Honda’s scientists and developers, helping the firm come up with AI-enabled products that consumers want, Matsumoto was quoted as saying in an interview.

Noting that advances in AI are sprouting like “bamboo shoots after rain”, the executive said that it’s time to find commercial uses for the technology by marrying research with Japan’s traditional strength in hardware.

“We won’t make much difference if we did the same things as everyone else in Silicon Valley. And not everyone has succeeded there,” Matsumoto said.

The Honda official sees AI as the brains that will combine robotics, sensing, navigation and connectivity technologies to enable autonomous driving.

Honda’s choice of Tokyo as a home base for its efforts in the space differs from rival automakers such as Toyota Motor.

Toyota has hired former US defense scientist Gill Pratt to set up and lead a research institute in the United States.

Underpinning Honda’s decision is its belief Japan has the necessary talent to compete with Silicon Valley, Bloomberg noted. 

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