Honda thinks that its accident-resistant, super-smart, fuel cell-powered car is better than Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.
Honda argued its case at the 2015 SAE World Congress — a conference for engineers in the automotive and transportation industries. It says that even though the car may take another hour to get you to your destination, ultimately consumers will prefer to have the independence and convenience of their own transport over being limited to a train.
“[Hyperloop is] a pretty big idea. But here’s one that I think is even better because it’s centered on the human desire for personal mobility,” said Frank Paluch, president of research and development for Honda Americas, at the closing keynote of SAE. “How about a dedicated lane on the I-5 for highly automated, connected vehicles, using swarm technology to travel at speeds upwards of 300kph [180mph]. LA to San Fran in less than two hours. No drive to the train station, and no constraints on when you can come or when you go.”
Paluch believes that the U.S. needs to expand its national highway infrastructure to help stimulate the next jump in fast and efficient transportation.
“Now take that image beyond the I-5 and apply it to all California’s major interstates, working together with super-connected cars and infrastructure and all of a sudden, you’ve got an effective commuting radius of maybe 100 miles to get to work each day,” said Paluch. “In this scenario, your car has become part of a transformed mobility experience, one cell in a national high-speed hyperloop. But one with infinitely more flexibility.”
Paluch wants your car to take over full control once it hits the ultra fast lane on the highway. Cars would communicate with each other to navigate the roads, avoiding collisions, even at 180 MPH. Honda even wants the driver to be able to turn his or her seat around, allowing them to face backwards to talk with passengers. He stressed, however, that it is important to preserve the fun in driving, so when you “exit the hyper highway, you turn your seat around, turn off the autopilot, and take the wheel so that you can enjoy a wonderful backcountry or coastal drive.”
Currently, one of the major concerns with ultra fast cars is the ultra-high fuel consumption associated with them. With worldwide focus moving to renewable energy sources, Honda wants their super car to be powered by hydrogen.
“Gas is cheap and supplies are plentiful but climate change is happening,” said Paluch to the crowd of car people. “At Honda we talk about being a company that society wants to exist and on the basis of that high objective, we’re determined to create technologies that move our society beyond the age of oil.”
Honda isn’t new to the hydrogen vehicle market, as it already has a sedan known as the FCX, which is available in Japan and LA. In 2016, Honda’s FCV will be available in 2016, another vehicle with a fuel cell/electric motor.
In contrast to Elon Musk’s plan, however, Honda’s concept is just that: a concept, whereas the Hyperloop is a fully-conceived plan that is already being put into action. Honda’s hyper car will require a lot of different players with big egos to play the game with them to bring the concept into reality.