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General Motors, Honda Accelerate IoT, Connected Cars Efforts

Can consumers and local businesses expect 'Alexa On Wheels?' General Motors and Honda are joining the race.

The steady emergence of the autonomous vehicle and the connected car has forced legacy brands like Honda and General Motors to quickly challenge tech companies like Google and Uber on development of Internet of Things platforms.

This past week, those two companies took big steps toward asserting themselves in the tech space just as Google and Uber have sought to beat the automotive companies on claiming to be first in crafting the “car of the future.”

Honda Silicon Valley Lab, which is billed as “the global open innovation hub within Honda R&D Americas,” is broadening its focus beyond vehicles by developing partnerships as a new company, Honda R&D Innovations, to be known as “Honda Innovations.”

Meanwhile, GM said it is creating more than 1,100 new jobs and investing $14 million in a new research and development facility for Cruise Automation in San Francisco. These investments will allow Cruise Automation to expand development of self-driving technologies that will transform personal mobility, the company said.

“Expanding our team at Cruise Automation and linking them with our global engineering talent is another important step in our work to redefine the future of personal mobility,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. Self-driving technology holds enormous benefits to society in the form of increased safety and access to transportation.”

“Running our autonomous vehicle program as a start-up is giving us the speed we need to continue to stay at the forefront of development of these technologies and the market applications,” Barra added.

Honda’s IoT Plan

Honda’s effort comes on the heels of GM’s wider rollout of its app-based Maven program, which is now in 17 cities across the U.S. and Canada, following an alignment with Lyft in Atlanta as the auto brand seeks to expand the year-old car-sharing effort.

More recently, it follows Audi’s acquisition of car-sharing rental platform Silvercar, which is part of the German company’s other holdings, including its ownership alliance with Daimlier and BMW of online mapping and navigation platform HERE.

Based in the heart of Silicon Valley within Mountain View, CA, Honda Innovations will operate globally as it seeks to partner with a range of platform providers including startups and global brands on to design and development outfits.

Honda Innovations has a comprehensive list of tech ambitions it wants to tackle:

  • Connected Vehicle/Internet of Things (IoT) services
  • Human Machine Interface
  • Machine Intelligence/Robotics,
  • Connected Services, Personal Mobility
  • Sharing Economy/Shared Mobility

On top of that, Honda Innovations is having discussions on technical collaboration with Waymo — formerly known as the Google self-driving car project and currently part of a court case involving Uber and the search giant — to integrate that company’s self-driving technology with vehicles from Honda. (A “memorandum of understanding” between Honda R&D Co. and Waymo was signed in late 2016.)

“We’re witnessing a convergence of technologies that will transform mobility, create new business opportunities, and change the way we manufacture products, said Nick Sugimoto, who has served as the senior program director of Honda Silicon Valley Lab, has been named as the CEO of Honda Innovations.

“By looking broadly across technology areas and partnering with innovators across the globe, we can create products and services that enhance the lives of our customers,” Sugimoto added.

The Connected Race is On

Just as Amazon, Apple, and Google are currently battling to be the main point of consumers’ online connection in the home, the car represents the next frontier of consumers and businesses wireless experience.

Just as Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana have expanded the bounds of search and local commerce, consider how Google’s Waze has done that on the road by allowing Dunkin’ Donuts app users to order ahead before they hit the road (other brands will be able to do the same order/drive/pickup via Waze).

Self-driving cars inherently free riders up to plan where they go and what they do en route and on arrival.

To put it in perspective, by 2030, around a quarter of all miles driven in the US could be in shared autonomous electric vehicles, which will offer consumers in large cities the lowest-cost, most convenient form of transportation, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group.

 “Such an evolution in mobility is no longer a fantasy. The technology exists and our research shows that many consumers will embrace it,” said Brian Collie, a Chicago-based partner who leads BCG’s automotive practice in North America. “Yet few players are taking the bold steps needed to position themselves to thrive in this not-too-distant future. The time to act is now.”

Clearly, Honda and GM have heard the message.