2015 SAE World Congress - Keynote Speech

Good evening, everyone. I hope you enjoyed that brief look back at our company's history and some of the great and varied examples of...

Good evening, everyone. I hope you enjoyed that brief look back at our company's history and some of the great and varied examples of innovation and challenge that have helped define more than a half-century of Honda mobility.

Tonight, I plan to talk about big bangs … not of the celestial variety, but the kind of big ideas that have fueled our industry for the better part of two centuries.

Honda's big bang came from the unquenchable spirit and engineering genius of our founders. I'll talk more in a few minutes about how we are working to harness that same challenging spirit … to achieve big new dreams for our customers now and in the decades ahead.

But I won't talk about only our ideas for the future. I want to talk about the big dreams we all have for the future of this industry … and the critical role that the interactions we're having at this Congress can play in realizing those dreams.

My experience this week has been very encouraging. SAE has been bringing together the best and the brightest from all mobility industries for over 100 years now… through events like this Congress, and even SAE Convergence. This week has provided me with a renewed sense of optimism… and a stronger appreciation for all the hard work being done by everyone in this room to advance our industry. I hope you have the same feeling tonight.

And on behalf of my fellow Honda engineers in North America and worldwide, I want to say what an honor and privilege it has been for Honda to serve as the host company for this year's SAE World Congress. And I want to give special thanks to my colleague, Erik Berkman, who has served as the chair for this Congress… and also to our Tier One strategic partner, Continental… and SAE International for your tremendous effort and commitment to this event.

What I've seen this week is a wonderful convergence of ideas… of people… of spirit. And that's a word I use deliberately… convergence… because what I want to talk about this evening is about a convergence of Ideas and technology that's going to change the future.

So what does the future look like? It's obviously a rather rhetorical question… no one has the absolute right answer. But… we all have inside of us a dream for a better tomorrow made possible by advancements in science and technology. That is the philosophical foundation for SAE, and the fundamental reason that we're all here today... we lead mobility innovation.

Mobility has always served as the critical instrument in the advancement of society. Back to 3500BC when the wheel was first used for motive power … to carts and chariots... and the creation of roads … to carriages and the Conestoga wagon that opened the American West … to steam engines and the railroad … and national roads… leading to the internal combustion engine and the automobile … which provides for the personal mobility needs of modern society.

And while we all have our own wonderful and unique ideas for the future... it is clear that right now…we are seeing the beginning of a major shift in the paradigm of human mobility… brought on by the convergence of new ideas in science, technology, engineering, social trends and more. And this will pave the way for the next evolution of our mobile society.

As we look to this future, we have to ask ourselves how we will respond to these changes, and… how will we lead them?

Our biggest challenge as engineers and as creators of a better mobility future is not just technology, although that is critically important. Another challenge is in how we think about our industry and its role in creating the conditions for radical change so mobility can advance and society to evolve.

As I said… the big bang from which Honda the company was born occurred over 65 years ago, when our founder, Mr. Soichiro Honda, pursued a relatively simple convergence of technologies based on a need he identified. People all over post-war Japan were walking or, a few lucky ones, biking to get where they needed to go. They had no other option.

His first product was a bicycle fitted with a gas engine from a wireless radio generator… a convergence of technology… he made this because he wanted to make people's lives easier and better with mobility. From that initial idea... Honda's big bang… has sprung all the crazy mobility technologies we have today.

2015 is a truly extraordinary year for our company… we are calling it "The Year of Honda"… as we realize the fulfillment of some crazy Honda dreams that took root many years ago.

We're taking Honda mobility to a new dimension with the Honda Jet… powered by our own GE Honda HF120 turbofan. We've reentered Formula One racing, and brought back the Acura NSX supercar… as well as a new Honda fuel cell vehicle. It's a big year for us … that reflects an incredible amount of research, years in the making.

Honda has always invested in advancing its core knowledge across all aspects of the mobility equation. Most of this research is closer to the current reality, but some of it is more fundamental and far-reaching. We've studied the movement of cockroaches… and bumble bees to better understand mobility. After all, swarms are just complex traffic patterns, right?

Another example is our ASIMO advanced humanoid robot, which has real potential to not only help improve the people's lives… but also to advance the high-level sensing capabilities of all Honda products. An offshoot of that research into the biomechanics of human mobility is our Walking Assist Device, which is now being evaluated in clinical settings as a device that restores to people the most basic form of human mobility… walking.

We're also researching new forms of energy creation and energy management as a core part of our vision for a sustainable future. We developed our own solar cells to give us a much deeper understanding of solar power as a potential pillar of an integrated living and sustainable mobility system.

From a distance, all of this (all products on slide) probably makes us sound a little crazy. Sometimes we think we're crazy, too… but in reality we're not thinking just about today or tomorrow… but preparing for the next 50 years of mobility, and we continue to think about how we can advance all stages of human mobility, walking… riding… driving and flying. This spirit reflects our deep-seated belief in what we call The Power of Dreams… and the idea that advancing mobility on all fronts is the key to the evolution of society.

With our understanding of the products we're making today… we are setting the foundations so we can participate in that major paradigm shift I talked about earlier… when many of these unique technologies and disciplines will converge at a very high level to create new value for our customers and society.

Change is happening… radical change… in sensing, robotics, computing power, relational networks, energy systems, augmented reality and more.

We believe these dramatic technological advances… shifting social priorities… and evolving economic paradigms have tremendous disruptive potential. In this context, our role as engineers, as an industry, is to accept the challenge to transform the fundamental nature of the products we make… to realize game-changing innovation.

This kind of radical innovation is a very daunting task. The rapid pace of change across so many social, political, economic and technology boundaries makes for a very uncertain future… one that's difficult to predict let alone manage.

Even those we consider to be our best and brightest have found it difficult to predict the future. Allegedly Bill Gates said … "640K (of RAM) ought to be enough for anybody." He now denies the quote. I would too.

Or the founder of Digital, who said: "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." And you know what … at that time … maybe he was right.

But the challenge for all of us … is to think beyond … and dream beyond … what we know today… and prepare for what we might need tomorrow.
This week, a number of Honda thought leaders spoke to this challenge and offered up some pretty critical perspectives that speak to Honda's vision for mobility that is fundamentally cleaner, safer, more efficient andresponsive to the needs of the individual and of society.

One idea is the notion of personalization. Our customers' lives are becoming increasingly informed by and integrated with technology… smart phones, tablets and smart, web-enabled home devices. These devices are all extensions of the individual that can make for a more intuitive, interactive and personal mobility experience. The digital aspects of the car must evolve to become a more natural extension of the customer's life experience, interacting seamlessly with other devices and responding intelligently to the individual needs and wants of the customer.

The second critical perspective is learning. Advancing the car as an adaptive learning machine is another necessary condition for radical innovation.

Sensors alone, for example, cannot enable safe, driverless operation. Cars must be both sensing and learning platforms, working cooperatively with one another and with the surrounding environment.

We have a V2I initiative in Japan called Green Wave that, in field tests, reduced travel time and improved fuel-efficiency by12%… simply by coaching the driver on the optimal speed to avoid congestion and red lights. I wouldn't call this radical change, but the potential for improving our customers' mobility experience is significant.

With the advancement of learning, sensing and communication, both cars and infrastructure, we move into a new realm… a truly radical change… a cooperative car society.

We had one of our leading safety engineers speaking this week about the continued advances we're seeking in passive safety and occupant protection. We want to continue to advance body structures for safety and efficiency… but in the long run, achieving our aim of a zero-collision society relies heavily on this notion of a cooperative car society.

In fact, we laid out what we think is a very clear pathway to that future, and we're on our way… based on real world experience. It started in the early 2000s with the introduction of driver-assistive and collision avoidance technologies. Every automaker has an alphabet soup of these technologies… and it's already begun to transform automobile safety.

The next phase of our pathway takes us to 2020… connecting humans, vehicles and infrastructure in an omni-directional safety system that, we believe, will significantly reduce driver workload and enable a 50% reduction in accidents involving our vehicles. Again, by 2020…not very far off.

Then, by 2030, we are connecting not only cars, but all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders.

By 2040, Honda connected vehicles would be accident free, which would pave the way for radical changes in the way we move and live.

The final phase targets 2050 when cars stop being just cars. They converge into a network of intelligent, interconnected machines using advanced sensing and relational capabilities to inform and educate the world around them.

The other piece of our vision is the advancement and integration of new energy and powertrain systems. Here again, we're taking a holistic approach that looks at all phases of energy production, distribution and consumption for both home life and mobility.

We have Smart Home initiatives here in the U.S. and in Japan that are early but critical steps toward this vision… living laboratories that take a holistic approach to achieving net-zero energy living and driving… exploring new concepts in energy-efficient home design and integrating them with advanced alternative-fuel vehicles, smart grid technology and locally-generated renewable energy.

Of course, fundamental advancement in powertrain technology is a lynch pin… and over the next several years, we'll launch multiple new products in the electric mobility space, including fuel cells, battery electrics, plug-in hybrids and more.

Again, I'm not simply promoting our vision. I want to share our thinking and consider how it fits with your own challenging ideas for the future.

So let's consider the future… starting with the past.

I talked earlier about Honda's big bang, but the original big bang for our industry occurred some 120 years ago when Karl Benz patented a gas engine automobile. And that initial big bang has been supplemented by the contributions of other big thinkers… guys with last names like Ford, Honda and Porsche.

Based on this explosion of original thinking, the auto industry has operated as a major agent of social change and evolution. Perhaps no other invention, discovery or technological advance has created more change in society than the automobile. Where people were once relatively isolated from one another, the automobile gave them personal freedom to go places and live places they couldn't before.

Suburban neighborhoods sprang up… new roads, jobs and commerce were created…motels… neon signs and rest stops… heck… automobiles even changed the way people dated!

But what's the next step? Progress and technology are advancing at exponential rates. What is the next big bang that will advance the value of the automobile and make it an indispensable device for the next 50 or 100 years? I'm pretty sure there are some really big ideas in this room tonight.

But if you live and work outside of this industry, you might be inclined to think that the really big ideas aren't coming from Detroit or Ohio… that the real entrepreneurial spirit driving our future isn't centered in Wolfsburg or Stuttgart or Tokyo… but in Silicon Valley or in the minds of "crazy" thinkers like Elon Musk.

We can argue about the long-term viability of Tesla's business model, or the challenges they'll face in expanding their market footprint. But no one can argue against the fact that the Model S is a very exciting, even revolutionary product,

Tesla serves as a great example of the role a disruptive outsider can play in shaking up our traditional industry. The success of Tesla and the attention given to Google and others demonstrates how traditional barriers to competition across industries and market sectors are rapidly crumbling… giving way to a more dynamic and even volatile marketplace of ideas and free-flowing capital. That's a good thing!!

This is actually very consistent with the philosophy of Mr. Honda, who said that "all engineers are equal in the presence of technology," meaning good ideas should be respected, even if they come from unexpected places. As engineers and leaders of our industry, we should be motivated by these ideas, and we should respect them. But I'd also like to believe that we can do even better. And maybe that's why you still see a fair share of "crazy" ideas coming from Honda R&D labs.

That's because we believe that the automobile has vast untapped potential as the centerpiece of a transformed personal mobility experience. Our industry can and must lead this societal transformation once again.

So let's talk about big ideas. In fact, let's consider Elon Musk's hyperloop concept. Maybe you know this story. Musk proposed a $6 billion dollar superfast commuter train, traveling in a tube paralleling the I-5 that would take you from LA to San Francisco in under an hour. He took the idea public… and a company with crowd-sourced financing is now targeting a California test track by 2016.

That's a pretty big idea. But here's one that I think is even better because it's centered on the human desire for personal mobility. How about a dedicated lane on the I-5 for highly automated, connected vehicles, using swarm technology to travel at speeds upwards of 300kph? LA to San Fran in less than two hours. No drive to the train station, and no constraints on when you can come or when you go.

Now, take that image beyond the I-5… and apply it to all California's major interstates, working together with super-connected cars and infrastructure and all of a sudden, you've got an effective commuting radius of maybe 100 miles to get to work each day.

In this scenario, your car has become part of a transformed mobility experience… one cell in a national high-speed hyperloop. But one with infinitely more flexibility… optimized and personalized to your liking, including the type of car you drive. It could be an NSX, it could be an Accord, or something entirely new.

And you can remain on the beaten path or depart from it… because it's responsive to you… your schedule, your needs and your style. It's fully connected to your digital life… your smartphone and smart home… and to the existing network of roads with V2V and V2I eliminating traffic snarls, improving energy efficiency, and virtually erasing forever the possibility of a collision. In Honda's vision, this system also includes vehicle-to- pedestrian and vehicle-to-motorcycle networks, connecting and respecting everyone that shares the road.

But we can make it even better. Because on your way home, as you get ready to exit the hyper highway, you turn your seat around… turn off the autopilot… and take the wheel so that you can enjoy a wonderful backcountry or coastal drive.

Why is this better? It's better because cars aren't just transportation devices. They don't just move our bodies from point A to point B. Done right, they move our hearts and spirits as well. I'm talking here about the basic joy and thrill of driving. And that takes us back to our big bang… to Honda's fundamental approach to the joy and freedom of personal, human-centered mobility.

"That's all great"… you're thinking… "but you're still burning gas and a lot of it." Okay, I get that. In fact, Honda's environmental vision statement speaks loud and clear to both sustainability and the joy of mobility as critical imperatives.

This is a big challenge for the future. Gas is cheap and supplies are plentiful… but climate change is happening… demand for energy is increasing… and CO2 emissions are growing. From an environmental point of view we see oil spills in the Gulf or fracking by the highway… all because of our oil-dependent society… and industry.

Our challenge, and responsibility, is to think beyond the immediate or obvious customer need… to look farther down the road to anticipate the future needs of society. At Honda we talk about being a company that society wants to exist… and on the basis of that high objective, we're determined to create technologies that move our society beyond the age of oil.

So, let's go back to the vision... now your car is a fuel cell vehicle, using hydrogen cracked from water using renewable energy sources. Truly clean energy. This new FCV has four 50-kilowatt in-wheel electric motors, a super capacitor for kinetic energy recovery, and a super lightweight and aerodynamic body that leverages our racing car and jet aircraft experience to enable incredibly stable high-speed travel… perhaps using inductive charging and maybe some new tire that can actually serve as a power source by converting the energy from heat into electricity that powers the vehicle… extending the range to 1000km or more… or a tire that is made from an alternative material such as dandelion roots that our Tier 1 partner Continental is researching. Don't kill those weeds!

But who will build those high speed lanes? Who will maintain them? How will it get paid for? Perhaps more importantly for this audience, is how we, as an industry, can work together to set the priorities to make this a reality.

Let's continue with the vision… my FCV is connected to my smart home energy system, supplementing the grid and acting as part of a distributed energy network that includes wind and locally generated solar power. In the event of a blackout, my car functions as a home backup generator. And now I am living the low-carbon dream… driving and living with net-zero grid energy and zero CO2 emissions.

By the time this all happens I'll be retired and living in Florida. This will be a great way to come back and visit my grandkids in Ohio! Florida to Ohio, ASIMO for a co-pilot, zero emissions… all in 6 hours!!

That, I think, is a pretty cool image for the future of the mobility, and the future of the automobile. Clean – Safe – Fun – and Connected!

This is powerful and challenging stuff, and it's just one possible vector for the future… But the point is our industry must lead the creation of change for future mobility… with our ideas… and our crazy dreams. Realizing the next level of value to society is no longer as simple as putting a surplus engine on a bicycle… or putting an iPad in the dashboard. The kind of change that secures our future requires that we successfully integrate an incredibly diverse array of systems… based on a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges ahead. As promising as this future may look on paper, none of us can get there on our own. No single company, no enterprise… has the size or reach to line up all these pieces by themselves.

You know, at Honda, we've always had a fierce sense of independence for creating products that are truly unique… that pursue an uncompromised engineering vision … based on the idea that the purpose of technology is to serve the needs of people. As companies and as individuals, we must have our own core values… and our own vision. That's what makes us different and helps us meet unique needs of our customers.

These core values should not change. But how we fulfill our unique values and dreams must change. Realizing radical, transformative innovation for the future of mobility… the kind of change that defines our industry and insures its future for decades to come is very much a shared challenge. A new, more collaborative approach in bringing our BIG dreams to life... is the new way.

Whether it's standardized protocols for vehicle charging… or secure V2V information exchange… or the dedicated bandwidth to support that exchange… or the regulatory structures that will be so critical to a connected car society. All of these things and more will require a concerted effort… across industry sectors… across the vast array of corporate, social and political stakeholders that each hold a piece of this puzzle.

You are all creators of the future… and leaders in your respective fields. And many of you are also policy makers within your companies, or at the very least influencers of policy. If we want to secure this future… and have it be understood and appreciated as an indispensable agent of positive social change… we have got to work together… break down the walls that divide us… think beyond traditional alliances and partnerships… and build better, faster networks of communication and collaboration between all the stakeholders in this game. These efforts have begun, I know… but they need to get even stronger and more international in scope.

Again, it's why we're all here this week. To talk…to share…and think together about our future. We all need these conversations to continue, to expand and to grow. This is part of our larger mission… a higher calling as engineers and as creators of the future. We have a responsibility… to each other… to our industry… and, most importantly, to society… to think bigger.

We all need to be a little crazier with our dreams… more courageous with our vision… and more committed to fundamental transformations that will make us the real leaders of mobility innovation for the next 50 years.

By that point, people will look back on today and find it hard to believe that we once burned fossil fuels, or traveled at a snail's pace of 70 miles per hour… or that tens-of- thousands of people died every year in traffic accidents. Just as we look back at when people burned whale oil…or rode in wooden ships. How crazy is that?

And so here's my final request to all of you… my colleagues in this wonderful community of thinkers and creators: Please keep dreaming… don't be afraid to share your dreams… the crazier the better. And please consider deeply the role you can play in creating the next big bang. The future of our industry and the future of human mobility depend on it.

Thank you so much… for your time and attention… and for your commitment to SAE… to this Congress… and to our shared future.

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