Las Vegas – Toyota’s Concept-i, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday, is a car that thinks it’s a person and although it isn’t destined for showrooms anytime soon, it gives us a fascinating glimpse at how Toyota sees the future of driver and car interaction.
The car is equipped with an artificial intelligence system, known to the driver as Yui, and which claims to be able to get to know the driver and his or her emotions by monitoring movements and various habits. That’s assuming the little critter isn’t actually plotting to take over the world and enslave the human race, but that’s another matter.
Quite to the contrary the concept was ultimately designed to make mobility technology seem “warm, welcoming and fun.”
You’ll feel those vibes the moment you approach the car, with its headlights that wink at you and doors that say hello.
The cabin looks like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie and as you’re sinking in, Yui’s cute, blobby avatar greets you from a little pod on the dashboard. Unlike modern vehicles, the information is not concentrated into some central screen, but rather scattered around the vehicle in the places where it’s needed.
Coloured lights in the footwell, for instance, will tell you whether the car is in autonomous or manual mode (you can actually drive it if you want, with some back-up assistance from the car), while and advanced head-up display focuses your attention on the road and various projections warn you of blind spots. Besides lighting, the car also uses sound and touch to communicate with occupants.
This thoughtful vehicle even spares some attention to other drivers by displaying large graphics on the rear that warn about upcoming turns or potential hazards ahead.
We don't know what powers the Concept-i but can only assume that it would never tolerate the whiff of any kind of fossil fuel. The car was created by Toyota’s Calty Design Research centre in California, its main aim being to create a car that can build a relationship with its driver that seems meaningful and human.
As Toyota’s automotive vice president Bob Carter puts it: “At Toyota, we recognize that the important question isn't whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies. It is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles.
“Thanks to Concept-i and the power of artificial intelligence, we think the future is a vehicle that can engage with people in return."