Honda will begin tests next year of a small electric vehicle that uses a driver's tablet for displaying dashboard readings, audio, navigation and images from its rearview camera, it said Tuesday.
The company's new "Micro Commuter Prototype" will also be able to charge its owner's tablet using solar panels built in to its roof. The prototype is an electric vehicle that seats a single driver and can reach speeds of 80 kilometers per hour, with a range of about 60 kilometers. It is 2.5 meters long, 1.25 meters wide and about 1.4 meters tall.
The car is similar in concept to Toyota's "Smart INSECT" concept shown at the Ceatec electronics show in October. That vehicle works with smartphones, providing a wireless charging pad and using their wireless connection to access Toyota's cloud services for cars.
Honda's concept has a dedicated slot on the dashboard for a tablet. The company has not said which tablets it will support when the car begins testing next year.
Honda said tests of the car, which also has a tiny back seat that can fit small children, "will verify the potential of the vehicle in various uses including supporting everyday short-distance transportation for families with small children and for senior citizens, home delivery services, commuting and car sharing."
The vehicle's motor, battery and mechanics will fit under the floor, allowing Honda to quickly develop different shells for the various types of customers it targets.
Honda's prototype can also be used with its home energy system, which can charge its electric vehicles efficiently but also allows them to function as batteries for home use when they are plugged into a home power grid.
Honda said its micro-commuter will be built to fit under standards being developed by the Japanese government for a new category of small vehicles. The company says the new car will also meet the requirements for Europe's "L7" category for quadricycles, which stipulate that a vehicle's weight does not exceed 400kg (excluding batteries for electric cars) and has a maximum engine output of 15kW.