Car companies love to say they got there first. It appears Honda may be the first major automaker to show a concept vehicle designed for the ride-sharing market. The NeuV, which was announced Thursday at CES, is an acronym for the New Electric Urban Vehicle. NeuV [noo-vee] is based on the premise that self-driving, electric cars can be put to work rather than sitting idle nearly all the time.
Honda says the two-seat vehicle could be programmed to pick up and drop off passengers when its owner isn’t using it, or to sell back remaining energy to the grid. “We designed NeuV to become more valuable to the owner by optimizing and monetizing the vehicle’s down time,” Mike Tsay, principal designer, Honda R&D Americas, said in a company statement.
Honda also used the concept to showcase a number of interactive features and services. The NeuV uses an “emotion engine” and an automated personal assistant. It studies driver’s reactions and patterns using AI technology developed with SoftBank, and makes recommendations on music and tips on daily driving habits. The information is communicated through a touch screen. Honda also throws in an electric skateboard in the NeuV storage compartment to go the last mile.
Honda is joining in an industry trend: automakers are spending R&D money focusing on what your car can do for you, beyond what improves your driving experience in the car. Working with Visa, Honda showed a demo for parking and refueling payments that can be made from inside the car. The automaker has launched an additional partnership with DreamWorks Animation to produce augmented and virtual reality as part of its Honda Developer Studio and Honda Xcelerator open innovation programs. It’s all part of a strategy that envision vehicles that communicate with one another on the road to improve congestion and the productivity of its customers. Honda, a big name in the motorcycle world, also showed a self-balancing motorcycle that uses robotics to ensure that the motorcycle stands upright while at rest, a technology it calls Ride Assist. It’s intended to cut down on accidents.
Honda joins Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, Audi, and BMW as automakers that have chosen CES to show off their latest development strategies ahead of the North American International Auto Show. But a vehicle that tells you what to do and how to be more efficient could feel more like a boss than a friend, so its “emotion engine” better be good.