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Honda to partner with AI giant

China’s leading artificial intelligence company, SenseTime, announced they have signed a five year joint development and research contract with Japanese car manufacturer, Honda.

SenseTime is highly regarded as a company that excels in image recognition technologies, which is powered by deep learning technology, one of the most advanced AI technologies.

The partnership will combine Honda’s vehicle control system with SenseTime’s algorithms to create an autonomous driving solution.

Autonomous driving solutions can be implemented even if there are no high-resolution maps. 

When a vehicle is driving without a detailed map covering its trajectory, it will still be able to use the self-driving function. This autonomous driving solution offers great advantages to a variety of passenger vehicle scenarios and will also lower transducer manufacturing costs.

SenseTime Japan CEO Lao Shihong said, “Safety is the utmost priority when it comes to driving, and it also constitutes the core of our autonomous driving solution. By combining SenseTime’s strengths in computer vision technologies with Honda’s superior vehicle control technologies, we will together enable a safe and pleasant autonomous driving experience. Moreover, the fact that SenseTime provides core technology to a global enterprise like Honda marks a milestone.”

SenseTime, with a set of core technologies and patents for autonomous driving, has also developed chips and embedded systems for smart AI cars.

The partnership between SenseTime and Honda is expected to accelerate the research and development of smart AI cars.

SenseTime is focused on computer vision and deep learning technologies, and has achieved many commercial successes.

It has powered many industries such as finance, security, smart phone, mobile internet, robotics and many more.

Following its latest US$410 million series B round of financing (which set a record for a single round of funding in the AI field), SenseTime has allocated more resources to developing autonomous driving, intelligent medical treatment, and deep learning computer chips.

The two companies have also announced they are working together to create robot technology.

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Honda EVs to charge in 15 minutes

One of the biggest hurdles to the expansion of the electric vehicle market is the time needed to recharge electric batteries in comparison to filling up the gas tank.

According to Nikkei, Honda claims it will have EVs capable of a full charge in just 15 minutes by 2022.

Honda currently sources batteries for plug-in hybrids from Panasonic and is looking for a partner to collaborate with on its new, quick charging battery.

Honda is also engineering lighter bodies that are able to go farther on a single battery charge to reduce the anxiety that’s been occurring since the introduction of EVs.

The goal for 2022 is for a Honda EV to go 240 km on a 15-minute charge.

Currently, the fastest quick chargers are able to charge an EV battery to about 80 percent in roughly 30 minutes. While this is good, it is not enough to establish widespread acceptance of electric vehicles with drivers who are used to the convenience of  filling fuel tanks for internal combustion engines in five minutes anywhere in the world’s massive network of gas stations.

Honda is clever to be focusing on how far an EV can go on a 15 minute charge rather than focusing on how many miles a vehicle can go on a giant battery that takes a long time to soak up electrons.

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Hatchback reigns supreme

The Honda Civic Type R has beaten more expensive vehicles to be named Supreme Winner in the 2017 AMI Insurance New Zealand Autocar Car of the Year Awards. 

The Honda chosen from more than 40 entries across six categories, out-scoring higher priced vehicles, many in the $100,000-plus Luxury category. 

AMI Insurance New Zealand Car of the Year Awards 2017 Supreme Winner Honda Civic Type R

Award entries are critiqued on a number of variables including design, performance, practicality and value. 

The cars are also rigorously checked for their ANCAP safety ratings and on-road reviews, before being assessed on their safety features to ascertain the AMI New Zealand Autocar of the Year scores.

“The Civic Type R was one of the most exciting cars we drove all year,” Kyle Cassidy, Editor of New Zealand Autocar says. “It delivers blistering performance and soulful driver interaction, then with the flick of a button it’s a calm, family-friendly five-door hatchback with equal measures of practicality and safety.”

“Anyone who says Honda makes boring cars needs to drive the Civic Type R,” Cassidy says. “Priced under $60k, its thrilling performance doesn’t cost the earth.”

Volvo’s XC60 mid-size SUV wont the AMI Insurance New Zealand Autocar Safety Award. It is the second time in three years that a Volvo has taken out the award. The award recognises vehicle performance in New Zealand’s unique driving conditions. 

“Safety should be a contributing factor in any car purchase, so we rigorously critique our finalists on international safety standards before they are tested on New Zealand roads,” Cassidy says. 

“The judges praised the Volvo’s impressive advanced safety features – with 37.25 out of a possible 38 points for adult occupant protection it is the safest car on the road.”

For the first time in the awards history, electric vehicles were recognised with the Hyundai Ioniq winning the EV of the year.

• Supreme Winner: Honda Civic Type R
• Performance: Honda Civic Type R
• Luxury (over $100,000): Land Rover Discovery
• From $60,000 to $100,000: Volvo XC60
• From $45,000 to $60,000: Mazda CX-5
• From $30,000 to $45,000: Subaru XV
• Under $30,000: Suzuki Swift
• AMI Insurance Safety Award: Volvo XC60
• Bike of the Year: Triumph Street Triple
• EV of the Year: Hyundai Ioniq

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Honda uses Facebook for Takata investigation

Honda Motor Co Ltd says it will use Facebook Inc’s custom audiences tool to find car owners with defective Takata airbags.

(more…)

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Honda recalls 900,000 Odyssey minivans

Honda Motor Co said on Saturday that it was recalling about 900,000 Odyssey minivans because second-row seats may tip forward if not properly latched after being adjusted.

Honda says it has received 46 reports of minor injuries related to its minivans.

 The Japanese automaker said the recall covered 2011-2017 Honda Odyssey minivans, all but 2,000 of which are in North America.

There have been 46 reports of minor injuries related to the issue.

Honda said it was working on a recall fix to help ensure proper latching and had posted a detailed instruction sheet on how to ensure seats are properly latched. 

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The Honda EV Sports Concept

Honda’s latest concept car is an all-electric, two-seat sports car, combining EV performance and AI in a compact form. (more…)

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Holden fundraiser for charity

A grand total of $807,000 has been donated to charity over the weekend, thanks to a fundraiser by Holden Australia.

$307,000 of the total was raised by the ‘Commodore Collection’ auction, which consisted of three limited-edition Commodores – the Director 05, Motorsport 05 and Magnum 111.

The Director model was sold to an online buyer for $130,000, with 50 per cent of its proceeds ($65,000) given to The Lighthouse Foundation.

The Motorsport 05 went for $93,000 and the SS ute-based Magnum (build number 111) went for $84,000

The remainder of the proceeds ($242,000) were made up by a donation of $500,000 from Holden, with a total of $742,000 given to The Smith Family’s ‘Learning for Life’ sponsorship programme.

The auction was run by Manheim and simulcast online. According to Manheim director of sales Adrian Blackwell, bidding for the the limited-run Commodores came from all over the world.

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Honda to close Japanese plants as focus shifts to EVs

Honda is taking the rare step of closing one of its Japanese plants, as the car maker shifts its focus toward EVs.

Reuters reports that the company will end production at its Sayama plant by 2022. The move will cut domestic capacity by around 24 per cent.

The automaker has seen stagnant domestic sales and said on Wednesday it was streamlining its Japanese operations as it takes a nimbler approach to development and manufacturing in the face of fierce competition from carmakers and technology companies to make EVs and self-driving cars.

“As we focus more on adopting electrification and other new technologies, we want to hone our vehicle manufacturing expertise in Japan and expand it globally,” CEO Takahiro Hachigo told a press conference.

Honda’s CEO at a press conference on Wednesday. Source: Reuters

Honda said it would end production at the ageing plant north of Tokyo, consolidating output at its Yorii plant in the same area by the end of the 2022 financial year. Most workers currently at Sayama would be transferred to the Yorii facility.

“Domestic sales haven’t increased as much as we were expecting and it has become difficult to boost exports,” Hachigo said.

The move would cut overall domestic annual production capacity to around 810,000 units, the same as Honda’s current output levels, which are around 76 per cent of its current production capacity of 1.06 million vehicles.

Following the closure, Honda said the Yorii plant will produce EVs and serve as a major center for developing manufacturing technology for electric cars.

While the car maker makes cuts in Japan, it plans to open a new plant by 2019 in China, where it has seen massive growth. Overall, global annual production would remain largely unchanged at around 5.06 million units, Honda said.

Honda is complying with a request from Japan’s transport ministry for inspection records after Nissan said on Monday it would recall 1.2 million vehicles due failing audits of their final inspection processes.

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Honda says Takata airbag killed driver

A woman killed in a car crash in Florida last week was most likely the victim of a faulty Takata airbag inflator, Honda has said. If confirmed by authorities, it would be the 19th death worldwide linked to the defective airbags.

Honda said the 34-year-old woman was driving a 2002 Honda Accord. According to Reuters, an official cause of death has not been announced by authorities.

A 2002 Honda Accord

A minor crash can become deadly if a vehicle contains a Takata airbag, as they can explode under excessive force and fire metal shrapnel inside the cabin.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said vehicles produced between 2001-2003 had a 50 per cent chance rupturing in a crash, and urged the 300,000 drivers currently on US roads to get the airbags replaced.

The 2002 Accord at the centre of last week’s crash was initially recalled in 2011. Honda said it had mailed 21 recall notices, including ten notices to the current owner, but the repairs were never completed.

Last year, investigators found that the ammonium nitrate propellant, which has been identified as the cause of the airbag explosions, was much more likely to combust in hot, humid conditions, particularly over time.

Honda said that older vehicles, particularly those manufactured between 2001 and 2003, are most at risk, and owners should seek a repair as soon as possible. 17 of the total deaths related to Takata airbags have been in Honda vehicles since May 2009.

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Honda debuts Accord in Detroit

Honda debuted their tenth-generation Accord in Detroit on Friday in a bid to revitalise the slumping family sedan market in the US.

The car maker promised a suite of cutting-edge technologies, and the new Accord comes with two different powertrain options. The range opens with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, as currently seen in the Civic hatch, which generates 143kW of power and 260Nm of torque matched to a front-wheel drive CVT automatic transmission.

The next-level Accord contains a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine reminiscent of the just-released Civic Type R, producing 188kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This engine is matched to a world-first driving configuration of a ten-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.

A longer wheelbase and lower profile means an extra 7 centimetres of leg room in the cabin, Honda says. Inside the car, a 7.0-inch TFT screen and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen offers Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone mirroring and a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging.

Honda says the new Accord will also be available as a hybrid, with details of the motor to be announced.

Within the US, all models will contain Honda’s suite of driving assistance features, which include autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

The Accord is due to launch in the US in several months. No announcements have yet been made regarding an international release, but company director of Honda Australia, Stephen Collins, told Drive magazine the team are working to bring the Accord down under in 2018.

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Honda developing new EVs

The Honda Clarity EV is currently on sale in the US

Honda has confirmed it is developing two electronic vehicles, with the first scheduled to go on sale in 2018.

Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at a press conference that the company was hard at work on the two EVs. The first, due next year, is being developed specifically for the Chinese market, where the government has introduced incentives for EVs and plug-in hybrids to reduce pollution.

The second EV will be distributed worldwide, and will be introduced at either the Frankfurt motor show in September or the Tokyo Motor Show in October. Details of when the second EV eill go on sale are forthcoming.

Currently, Honda only has one EV – the Clarity, which is currently only sold in the United States. The Clarity has a range of 129km, less than its competitors, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt, but with a relatively low price tag of $48,500.

Honda has said in the past that it expects by 2030, two-thirds of its vehicles will have either partially or fully electric drivetrains.

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