The Toyota Concept-i on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2017

Toyota dominates in showcase of futuristic vehicles at Tokyo Motor Show

Image credit: Toyota

The 2017 show, which continues throughout the week, has been focused on new transportation technologies that challenge traditional ideas about what cars are, and what they can do.

The biennial Tokyo Motor Show was first held in 1954. Held at the Big Sight exhibition space, it is among the most influential showcases of the newest cars, motorbikes and other vehicles in the world. The show tends to present concept cars, rather than vehicles ready to enter production.

This year, the theme is ‘Beyond the Motor’, and automakers have been encouraged to look beyond standard motor vehicles, changing what we think of as cars, and transforming the event into a celebration of cutting-edge technologies that can be applied to cars and other devices.

Aside from the usual demonstrations of elegant, more environmentally friendly cars, many automakers embraced the theme, presenting smart cars and other vehicles.

Among the most attention-grabbing exhibits was Toyota’s futuristic, fully electric Concept-i, which was first revealed in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The idea of this car is that it is more than a car (a thing): it is a partner (an entity). It uses artificial intelligence (AI) software, named ‘The Agent’ to work with the driver.

“Toyota aims to create a new age of beloved cars as partners that understand their drivers and grow together with them,” Toyota stated. According to the company, it embraces the philosophy of “kinetic warmth”: that technology should be warm and welcoming.

The Agent collects and analyses information from social media profiles to learn about the driver’s interests and engage them in conversation during journeys. It uses facial recognition, body position monitoring and voice recognition software to monitor the driver’s performance and mood. In response to what it finds, it can alter the ambience of the interior – through seat angle, scents, temperature adjustment and even massages – in order to keep the driver calm and alert.

If the Concept-i detects that the driver is not in a state to drive, it can switch to autopilot. It can also communicate with other drivers using graphic displays on its exterior and by winking its headlights.

Demonstration tests are due to take place in 2020.

Along with the Concept-I, Toyota presented the Concept-i Ride – a joystick-controlled vehicle intended for wheelchair users – and the Concept-i Walk, a compact three-wheeled electric Segway for use in pedestrian areas. Toyota also put on display its ‘Wonder Capsule’, an electric two-seat vehicle just 2.5m in length. The Wonder Capsule has a boxy, retro appearance with a luminescent interior and vertical windscreen.

Toyota also presented a battery-powered bus, the Sora, which could be on roads in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and a new taxi, the Japan Taxi, aimed at reducing pollution.

Mitsubishi's e-Evolution concept on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2017

Mitsubishi, e-Evolution concept

Image credit: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi joined Toyota in embracing AI-equipped vehicles, putting on display the e-Evolution concept, an artificially intelligent SUV intended to make driving more fun. This uses machine learning technology to anticipate the driver’s next moves, as well as communicate with them. According to Mitsubishi, the car is able to adjust to the driver’s skill level, providing extra useful information with a ‘coaching function’ under challenging conditions.

Yamaha Motobot 2 on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2017

Yamaha, Motobot 2

Image credit: Yamaha

Yamaha revealed a new autonomous motorbike robot, the Motobot 2. Yamaha engineers used data about the human operation of motorbikes in order to create the humanoid robot, which straddles a motorbike and is capable of using its controls. Eventually, Yamaha aim to create a Motobot as accomplished as the best human riders, which could be adapted to ride other vehicles, such as snowmobiles.

Honda RoboCas on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2017

Honda, RoboCas

Image credit: Honda

Honda presented one of the most endearing vehicles at the Motor Show: an unusual battery-powered cargo-carrying robot vehicle, RoboCas. It has self-driving abilities, so can follow people while playing music and engaging in conversations. It also has a cooler installed inside, and an LED cartoon face on the front. The company suggest that this could be used as a mobile coffee stall or pumpkin-carrying assistant.

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