We met Hiroshi Saijou, CEO and Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Ventures based in Silicon Valley in Singapore 3 weeks ago. The friendly, light hearted gentleman shared with us his excitement on Yamaha’s MOTOBOT as well as the company’s vision shifting from purely hardware manufacturing to software innovation and ventures. Following this meeting, we’re delighted that Saijou-san will be joining us as a keynote opening speaker on day 2 of the TECHX Asia conference in Singapore this 6-7 September. Here’s a few insights on what you can expect from his speech in Singapore this September.
Q: On the vision of the “new Yamaha”- What are the current efforts to transform the traditionally manufacturing-focused Yamaha to prepare for future opportunities and challenges?
Saijou: Marc Andreessen once said that “Software is eating the world”. It is probably true that the greatest value differentiation of any business today is to provide better services for its customers via software. We aim to create meaningful partnerships with companies different than ours, such as software companies, to provide better values to our customers. Based on our observations, most of the active research topics these days combine hardware and software innovations. For example, the integration of automation and robotics with Internet of things (IoT) can create meaningful new experiences and offerings.
To go back to your question, the “new Yamaha” concept is to change our current manufacturing model to evolve into systems, solutions, and service provider. On top of collaboration with software companies, we need to also change the way we design hardware to avoid losing out to increasing competition. Since it is impossible for a company to cover every aspect of business, collaboration and partnership with other players is mandatory in today’s world.
Additionally, we have observed a shift of our customers’ mindset from “Ownership” to “Sharing” in every part of the world. Thus, another efforts within our concept of the “New Yamaha” is active venture investing and partnering.
Q: What are the types of companies or technologies that Yamaha Ventures would like to invest in in Asia, and why?
Saijou: Industrial Automation (including Agriculture), Urban & Personal Mobility, Connected “X” and “X” As-A-Service are our current interests. We search and invest globally.
Q: On Autonomous vehicles: Instead of focusing on fully autonomous, connected vehicles, Yamaha created MOTOBOT to use it within the existing mobility infrastructure. Please comment on the journey of creating MOTOBOT and its potential for disrupting the current transportation industry.
Saijou: MOTOBOT project has several specific focuses:
1. No modification on the motorcycle: MOTOBOT operates the throttle, brakes, gears and steering just as human would.
2. Created with a specific purpose to be superior to a human driving a motorcycle: MOTOBOT cannot walk, speak, nor listen, but it can ride a motorcycle better than a human. In the near future, the MOTOBOTriding a motorcycle will beat a professional racer.
3. The MOTOBOT project is an ongoing three year effort to express our thoughts about how robots should be created with specific functions to exceed human capabilities.
In the future, we’ll use MOTOBOT for internal performance evaluations of new vehicle models, and for exploring business opportunities to create useful autonomous vehicles for society, be they ground, water or aerial vehicles.
Q: Please share with us your vision of future mobility and how private automotive companies can help to be part of the efforts in building of smart cities in Asia & rest of the world.
Saijou: Today’s transportation systems are painful in so many urban parts of the world. On a daily basis we experience traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces, air pollution and accidents. To redefine the transportation system, we need to look beyond the vehicles. Autonomous driving technologies can be great for the evolution of public transportation systems especially as part of a broader, redefined, system. When the road capacity is limited, the biggest question is perhaps how we redefine current transportation system to fully utilize these finite resources. We have several efforts underway to address these major urban challenges.
Q: What is your biggest advice for companies trying to adopt disruptive technologies in their business operations?
Saijou: We are constantly challenging and exploring. We often ask how disruptive technologies or business models might help build the future of our company. I would advise all established corporations, like Yamaha Motor, unleash your boundaries. These walls are created internally instead of being imposed by external stakeholders. Within these walls, we have fully optimized our business models and operations, so much so that it is difficult to see new opportunities beyond the gates. Our future efforts support our internal research and development efforts but also push beyond to explore, execute, fail and retry ambitious efforts.
Instead of trying to find the best route to get to the future, we have to create a new map of an unknown world with unlimited possibilities.
Join us to learn from Hiroshi Saijou and over 70 other confirmed speakers at TECHX Asia this September. Visit our website for more information.