Often uttered in the same sentence are the words Japan and technology. Homing arguably some of the most notable tech legends, Sony, Nintendo, Panasonic, Canon and Toyota; SoftBank is no exception.
Best known as one of Japan’s top three phone carriers and its robotics line-up, SoftBank is also renowned for pursuing its smart car hobby. Pairing with fellow Japan native Honda, the two announced plans late last year to make cars emotive using cloud-based tech on SoftBanks’s pepper robot.
‘Uniting driver and car’
These plans began to emerge late last year in the guise of auto-makers AI-assisted NeuV and sports EV concepts. Such concepts, Honda describes as an ‘automated EV commuter vehicle’ that will be able to have emotions. Well, sort of. The idea is to ‘unite driver and car’, Honda’s July press release stated that the emotive engine would be able to react to the owner’s conversations and emotions.
Ticking time bomb to 5G
With the clock ticking down to Honda’s 2025 deadline for driverless cars, the duo are moving on to the next phase in their connected cars project, which is all about 5G.
Along with rivals NTT Docomo and KDDI, SoftBank is already testing 5G in Japan, with a view to kick-starting services by 2020. Before then, the carrier will test how well Honda’s cars can communicate with one another over its 5G network.
Starting in 2018, SoftBank will install 5G base stations at the auto-maker’s Takasu Proving Ground closed test course in Hokkaido, Japan. The 6.8 km circular course serves as a stomping ground for Honda’s smart cars, and soon they’ll be talking over wireless networks while speeding around.
At the same time, the two firms will be closely monitoring outcomes in order to develop the vehicles’ on-board tech and antennas. The experiment is also set to allow SoftBank to test its 5G signal in a rural setting – thus far its trials have been mainly limited to urban locations.
The greater picture may encompass SoftBank’s ridesharing investments, which include Singapore’s Grab (which also counts Honda as a backer), India’s Ola, China’s Didi, and now Uber. Interestingly enough, Uber is also testing driverless cars in select states in the US.
On a final note, smarter cars operating over faster wireless networks will only improve these services, no?