It would seem that Knight Industries* started something, way back in the 1980s, when they invented a car that talked to its driver.
Now Toyota has built a concept car that's more about next-generation communication than it is about transport and, fittingly, it's being shown for the first time at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies - ground zero for gadgets junkies - in Makuhari Messe in Chiba, near Tokyo.
The Smart Insect is an ultra-compact, single-passenger electric vehicle based on Toyota's Coms battery car, packed with technologies such as motion sensors, voice recognition and behavior prediction, that connects with its driver and his or her home via the cloud-based Toyota Smart Centre.
Front-mounted motion sensors use facial recognition to detect and authenticate a driver registered with the vehicle when they approach. Then the car flashes its headlights, greets the driver and opens one of its doors, according to the movement of the driver's hand.
A virtual agent at the Toyota Smart Centre recognises the driver's voice, asks “Where would you like to go?” and, depending on the answer, programs the satnav, sets up the lights according to ambient conditions and tunes in the sound system to that driver's previous preference for that time of day.
Smartphone navigation and content can be operated by voice command via the virtual agent, and the driver can also check and operate the locks and air conditioners of their home from the car.
*You don't remember the Knight Industries Two Thousand - KITT?