FOR the uninitiated, coming to the Tokyo Motor Show 2017 (TMS) presents an opportunity to see the concepts and philosophies of the Japanese Motor industry in their purest forms. The biennial event this year was just that, a plethora of exhibits from the big names in Japan’s car manufacturing scene, all showcasing their interpretation of this year’s theme of ‘Beyond the Motor’.
While many would have raised eyebrows at the lack of exhibits that hint towards the foreseeable developments instead of the far flung imagination of the future, true to Japan’s form there were some very interesting concepts that look at what are some of the prevailing trends of today and how they might be applied in car manufacturing.
During this year’s TMS Toyota showcased their ‘Concept-i’ project, a series of vehicles that are paired with artificial intelligence (AI) aimed at offering personal mobility solutions that takes personalised vehicles another step. As the world becomes a closer and tight knit thanks to advances in telecommunications and the internet, the AI or ‘Ai’ as they presented it, in Toyota’s concepts serve as a confidant to the user.
The Ai takes into account personal preferences, the user’s behaviour, emotions, alertness and stress levels for safer driving. Toyota also aim to have their Ai ready to take over the steering wheel if the driver isn’t in the best mood to drive the vehicle. In this regard the Ai not only acts as a driver aid, but develops the capacity to understand the driver, suggesting locations and things to do for the driver each time a journey begins.
How does it intend to do this? Currently, Toyota has been gathering data, primarily for its automated driving technology, but also has an eye on users’ information like the sports they participate in and other interests, gardening perhaps, and crunches the data that they have to develop the Ai to assess or review their behavioural patterns, the latest news and social media activity to put forward what the driver may want or needs to hear in a given situation.
Informing the driver of an upcoming engagement, or a reminder to buy a birthday present may not just be consigned to a smartphone or other hand held device, but also includes in the vehicles of tomorrow.
And Toyota don’t just use the term loosely, they’re already juggling with the idea of having the Ai of a particular user going in to other vehicles, so it’s not just something stuck in one vehicle. Without going into much detail on whether it’s something like an iTunes or a Google account that goes over a number of devices, Toyota want the Ai to be a partner in life.
The Concept-i vehicles are a reflection of that with a fully electric vehicle concept that can also help wheel chaired users access the vehicle and store their wheelchairs without much fuss. It might not sound like a great big deal, but for Japan’s growing elderly population, and those who need a wheelchair to move around, dealing with these aspects of life are something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Instead of having to manhandle the wheelchair into the car, a mechanism that uses the lift from the gullwing doors opening up allows the user to attach the wheelchair and manouver it into the vehicle to be stowed away. Quite clever actually, but most of all pragmatic and realising Toyota’s vision for mobility for all. How does the Ai fit into this? As before, it understands that the user’s specific needs and lets them know whether or not the area is wheelchair friendly in addition to any other amenities or facilities that are required.
Speaking of which, an alternative to a walker is the concept-i walk, an adaptable and innovative segway like device, but whereas the Segway might be considered bulky, this concept from Toyota is all about fitting in. One of the key points during a presentation with the media was that the concept-i walk’s proportions were designed to ensure that it would not be intrusive or disruptive to any pedestrian filled environment.
It would take up as much space as any other person walking in the park or a shopping complex and should the user require traveling at a faster rate, the wheel base extends slightly to give more stability. What I thought was very impressive was that it is small enough to fit on a step of an escalator, providing accessibility and highlighting inclusive forwards thinking by Toyota.
All this might sound gimmicky, until you realise the breadth of potential that it has when teamed up with other facets of driver aid and technology that Toyota is incorporating into their other lineups. Things like the Highway Teammate technology that they showcased in the previous few years and their Teammate Mobility Concept (automated driving technology) that they’re looking to develop for the near future, start to take on a bigger meaning when paired with the Ai.
It may seem like a far fetched idea and philosophies that don’t really amount to nothing, but another thing Toyota started making noise about was their “Start your impossible” campaign.
It’s a campaign that marks Toyota’s commitment to support the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society in which everyone can challenge their impossible.
Toyota believes that mobility goes beyond cars; it is about overcoming challenges and making dreams come true. “We want to share this thinking with all stakeholders, including consumers, so that we can approach this challenge together,” said Toyota President, Akio Toyoda.
As worldwide partner of The Olympic Games and The Paralympic Games, Toyota aims to encourage creating a peaceful society without discrimination through sports and a commitment to creating a sustainable society through mobility.
Although it remains to be seen whether Ai and automated driving will be the answer to our future mobility I wouldn’t put it past Toyota to be the first to crack it, just like they have with Hybrid and Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology.
We are after all talking about a company that introduced hybrid technology when no one thought it was going to work, and were the first to a Hydrogen Fuel Cell production car. In addition to that Toyota are introducing 100 “Sora” buses, hydrogen fuel cell powered, that will be in operation in Tokyo ahead of the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
I forgot who said it, but there is the saying, “The difficult we can do immediately, the impossible just takes a bit longer.”
It seems Toyota are well on their way to doing just that.