Honda partners with new DRIVE smart mobility startup hub in Tel Aviv

Honda is extending its courtship of startups through its Xcelerator program with a new partnership announced Wednesday with DRIVE, a new startup hub in Tel Aviv, Israel that focuses specifically on smart mobility tech, including transportation and automotive solutions. The partnership will see Honda’s Silicon Valley Lab work directly with the DRIVE center, offering “expertise, funding and rapid prototyping opportunities” to some of the facility’s companies, with the understanding that in future these could “evolve into additional business relationships.”

Honda isn’t the only partner on board for the new DRIVE center initiative – also joining as sponsors are Hertz Rent a Car and Volvo, among others. The launch of the facility by Mayer Group comes at a perfect moment in time in terms of capitalizing on the growing interest in the tech sector around not only automotive innovation, but also urban transit and automated transportation in general.

Honda has been keen to work with the startup community, and has used those partnerships to drive actual product development. In a tie-up with startup VocalZoom, Honda debuted a concept demo at CES this year that use optical sensors to offer better voice recognition – these sensors watch a speaker’s face to supplement data gathered by microphones.

Partnering with, and fostering promising startups is a smart strategy, and one that Honda’s global head of R&D activities Yoshiyuki Matsumoto told me at CES in January is part of the company’s overall approach to finding the best solution to any problem, whether that be through internal sourcing, external partnership or acquisition.