Aye, Robots: Honda Bringing Its 3E Concept to CES Technology Show

Honda 3E Concept Robots

For all of Elon Musk’s huffery-puffery re: Autopilot, for all the noise General Motors has been making about Cadillac’s Super Cruise and Chevy’s autonomous Bolt EVs, and for everything Nissan has been gabbing about in the realm of self-driving automobiles, there’s just one car company that comes to mind when one thinks of actual, honest-to-goodness robots: Honda. And at the 2018 CES show, Honda is out to illustrate that its robo-ambition stretches beyond Asimo.

The company’s 3E Robotics concept isn’t limited to a mere single bot. Nor is it, as one might expect, a trio of machines named Erno, Erokan, and Elvin. No, the 3E Robotics concept actually consists of four robots, all with different functions. The “3E” refers to “Empower, Experience, Empathy,” while the units serve a variety of specific functions.

Honda 3E-A18

3E-A18 (above) reminds us a bit of those accidentally murderous Emojibots from the most recent season of Doctor Who. It’s built to display a variety of facial expressions to, in Honda’s words, “show compassion to humans.”

3E-B18 is a mobile “casual” chair, less Professor X than some products on the market, and presumably more advanced than your garden-variety mobility scooter.

3E-C18 looks suspiciously like a motorized Japanese beer cooler. Which is what it basically is, though the company fails to note whether its “multifunctional cargo space” is either insulated or equipped with a handy drain.

Finally 3E-D18 is an autonomous ATV equipped with artificial intelligence.

Alongside the bot suite, Honda will unveil its Mobile Power Pack World, featuring a portable, swappable battery pack for EVs that also can be used to power a campsite—or, in the event of a grid outage, one’s home. As part of that exhibit, the company will also display a battery-exchanger concept designed to store and charge the packs. Think of it as a generator that doesn’t require gasoline. As for us? We’re gonna paint a Guy Picciotto eyebrow on 3E-A18, put on that Rites of Spring record, and revisit the birth of emo with our sweet new empathy bot. He is, after all, the only one who understands us.

Honda 3E Concept Robots REEL

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2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – First Drive

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Aye, Robots: Honda Bringing Its 3E Concept to CES Technology Show

Honda 3E robot conceptsHonda 3E-B18 robot conceptHonda 3E-D18 robot conceptHonda 3E-C18 robot conceptHonda 3E-A18 robot concept

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2017 Volkswagen Golf R In-Depth Review: The Adult-Approved Hot Hatch

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The Golf R is a multi-time 10Best Cars winner, along with the rest of the Golf family. However, this rapid yet eminently livable hatchback can be eclipsed by the fast and furious facades of the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS. The hot VW’s lesser sibling, the Golf GTI, also represents a stronger performance value for those less concerned with maximum thrust. But the R remains the pinnacle of the Golf lineup, a distinction it flexes with a 292-hp turbocharged inline-four, 4Motion all-wheel drive, and impressive levels of refinement—as well as the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It is the high-powered hatchback that can slip under the radar, a seriously capable sport-compact car well suited to the toils of adult life. READ MORE ››

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2017 Porsche Macan Turbo In-Depth Review: Very Small, Very Fast, Very Expensive

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Even if it didn’t hail from Stuttgart and claim the 911 sports car as next of kin, we would still call the unapologetically sporty Macan Turbo the Porsche of compact luxury crossovers. It’s that over the top and that great to drive. Representing the highest rung on the Macan ladder—with the Macan, Macan S, and GTS, which are reviewed separately, on lower rungs—the Turbo boasts a larger-displacement twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with 400 horsepower and an eye-watering base price. And that’s just the beginning. Porsche also offers a 440-hp version for those who like to spend (even more) money but also find themselves in one big damn hurry. Both versions largely abdicate their responsibilities as crossovers, prioritizing speed and fun over practical concerns such as passenger space and cargo hauling. But if you want to drive something dressed in an SUV suit that handles like a sports sedan and can go almost 170 mph, the Porsche of compact luxury crossovers is the one to have. READ MORE ››

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We Drive the 2019 Aston Martin RapidE Electric Sedan

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Although the electric version of the Aston Martin Rapide isn’t meant to go racing, it is very much a product of Britain’s Motorsport Valley. English topography isn’t accommodating enough to make this an actual valley, the reference instead being to the compact region in which you’ll find the headquarters of six Formula 1 constructors, plus numerous specialist suppliers and consultancies. The race teams could be surrounded by a 60-mile ring cast with sufficient accuracy. READ MORE ››

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2017 Volkswagen Golf R – In-Depth Review

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2017 Porsche Macan Turbo – In-Depth Review

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2019 Aston Martin RapidE Electric Sedan – Prototype Drive

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Beyond Aluminum: 2019 GM Pickups May Tackle the Carbon-Fiber Frontier

2017 GMC Sierra All Terrain

Starting in the 2015 model year, Ford turned to aluminum rather than steel for portions of its F-150 pickups, including the beds. And General Motors was merciless in ads that made fun of the change. But now the time has come for everyone at the ranch to raise their eyebrows a bit: GM is reportedly planning to use plastic for its pickup beds.

In all fairness, it’s not the kind of plastic that the word brings to mind. The beds would be made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), commonly just called carbon fiber. And the promise is that this would make the beds far stronger than steel or aluminum while weighing less.

Cost is the major barrier that explains why we haven’t seen carbon fiber in wider use; the material has been employed primarily in gram-conscious performance cars and eco-extremist models such as the BMW i3.

Although it’s possible that all of the next-gen light-duty GM trucks sold under the Chevrolet and GMC brands could go with carbon-fiber beds, it’s only likely for the most expensive trim levels of the new truck, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. The report said that carbon fiber offers about a 60 percent weight saving while costing 20 times more than steel and 10 times more than aluminum.

Carbon-fiber production in large volumes would be a far more labor-intensive and time-consuming process than production of steel or aluminum, although a big flat slab like a pickup bed would be easier to manufacture than, say, a shapely McLaren 720S fender. Collision repair could pose new complications for dealerships and body shops, while recyclability and end-of-life use for such a high-volume vehicle would be concerns from an environmental standpoint. While there’s an established ecosystem for second-life uses of steel and aluminum from recycled vehicles, a report from a U.K. think tank, the Green Alliance, this past year found various barriers to making the use of carbon fiber more sustainable, such as the cost of reprocessing it and the lack of a secondary market for the material.

GM’s aim would boil down to one thing: better fuel economy. Combined with other strategies—including a mix of steel and aluminum in the structure of its next-generation pickups, which are expected to go into production late next year—GM is expected this time to go all in on a suite of fuel-saving technologies, including electrification for some versions.

Much Ado about . . .

Despite the initial gripes when the F-150 switched to its more aluminum-intensive design, the pecking order among full-size trucks wasn’t disrupted. The F-series lineup could finish this year with its strongest sales year since 2005. The U.S. pickup market is also surging, and GM isn’t being left out; it had nearly 800,000 U.S. sales, combined, for the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra last year.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country

GM wouldn’t confirm or deny the Wall Street Journal report; nor would it comment on specifics for the next-gen trucks. “We will always use the right materials for the right application,” said spokesman Monte Doran. “One thing we will never do is compromise on capability or durability; we need to keep with customer expectations.

“With every single vehicle, we’re always looking for opportunities to optimize materials, mass, and fuel efficiency. We have the flexibility and expertise to use the best materials, and we have a very materials-based approach,” said Doran, pointing to the company’s multiple-materials approach to the Corvette and the aluminum hood used in GM’s current full-size trucks.

In this game of truck one-upmanship, is rival Ford also considering a carbon-fiber move? “Ford has always looked at advanced materials and decided on the right use and the right time,” said product spokesman Mike Levine. Levine added that Ford has already gained some carbon-fiber expertise with the Ford GT.

The price of full-size trucks isn’t yet up to the level of the GT, but in their top trims, the Chevrolet Silverado High Country and the GMC Sierra Denali, GM’s entries already exceed the base price of the Corvette. Actual transaction prices have been rising far more rapidly than those of vehicles in other segments. According to J.D. Power data, the full-size GM pickups sell for $43,220 on average, which is 30 percent more than just five years ago. Such a weight-watching bed might push not just the mileage, but also the sticker price, to new highs.

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