Honda’s new R&D Center X will focus on robots, energy and AI

Honda opened its new Innovation Lab Tokyo to press for the first time on Tuesday, and also marked the occasion by announcing the debut of a new tech R&D group within the facility called R&D Center X. The new unit will begin operations in April, and will focus on the kind of cutting edge stuff you might imagine it would – robotics, mobility services and systems, artificial intelligence and energy tech including batteries.

But it’s not just a pie-in-the-sky research lab; Honda’s focus with R&D Center X will be on delivering results that can be used in market, and the company told Automotive News we could see results from the new group’s efforts as early as next year in robotics, and by 2020 for a novel development in the field of autonomous driving.

R&D Center X sounds like it will also lean heavily on Honda’s Xcelerator program, since it’s going to be looking to collaborate with outside companies where it makes sense. The Xcelerator program, Honda’s own support and scouting program for startups, will likely prove a worthwhile pipeline for finding some of those external partners.

Honda is also basing Center X in Tokyo, not Silicon Valley, by design – Japan’s engineering schools provide a wealth of top-flight talent, the company says, while it can still tap into SV via work with external sources.

For a car company to not embrace its tech side fully these days is an absolute mistake, and Honda’s approach, which includes a heavy focus on R&D in general, along with this more speculative and creative play, makes a ton of sense.