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Honda plumps for Tokyo over Silicon Valley for AI research

Maybe the rent was too high.

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SAN RAFAEL, CA - DECEMBER 02: The Honda logo is displayed on brand new Honda car at Marin Honda on December 2, 2011 in San Rafael, California. Honda Motor Co. announced today that they are recalling 304,000 vehicles around the globe for a possible airbag malfunction in Accord, Civic, Odyssey, Pilot, CR-V and other models that were manufactured between 2001 and 2002. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Silicon Valley is a veritable Mecca for the future of tech research and development. But it's not for everybody, including Honda, which chose to establish its new artificial intelligence center thousands of miles away in Tokyo.

Honda's new Tokyo R&D center, which will focus on AI research, should open its doors next year, The Japan Times reports. It will swallow up teams currently stationed around the world, including in California and Germany. The company might bring on some local Silicon Valley talent, on short-term contracts, just to stay up on the latest ideas in that neck of the woods, though.

Honda believes AI is the keystone of the future of mobility. Autonomous driving requires many different technologies -- robotics, navigation, connectivity -- and Honda believes AI will be the piece that brings them all together.

The company chose Tokyo over Silicon Valley because of proximity to the rest of the company. It hopes that keeping most teams in the same area will create a work environment that's better suited to creating high-demand products, especially when it comes to autonomous driving.

It also believes that Japan's pool of talent is every bit as capable as the men and women in the Bay Area. Honda even went as far as to offer up non-traditional work and salary systems, in order to attract talent from other industries.

The company's decision to focus on Tokyo comes as many other automakers, including chief rival Toyota, expand their footprints in California. No matter where an automaker is placing its R&D efforts, though, every group seems to be on the same page: AI is almost a requirement when it comes to the future of the industry.