By on October 2, 2012

From Autoblog via Edmunds to Slashgear, the automotive blogosphere is buzzing about an INSECT from Toyota. INSECT is an acronym for “Information Network Social Electric City Transporter,” and, says Edmunds (along with pretty much everybody else who copied the press release,) the vehicle carrying the creepy name “is a single-seater that features facial-recognition technology and behavior prediction, marking the dawn of the car as mind-reader.” The INSECT officially hatched today, 1 ½ subway hours from where I currently live.

As an eye-witness, I can certify that a gullible media has been had.

The INSECT was revealed at the CEATEC show at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo today. Ceatec used to be the Japanese equivalent to CES, but is now a faint shadow of its formerly glorious self.

While still on approach to the Toyota booth at the show, the car professional immediately sees that the INSECT is not for real: It has gullwings.

According to a secret understanding among the world’s car companies, concept cars that will never see series production must be fitted with gullwing doors before they go on display. This saves the expense of resources wasted on researching the insincere thing. Those who are not privvy to secret industry conventions will find that except for the gullwings, the INSECT looks a lot like the COMS single seater electric vehicle offered by Toyota Autobody, because that’s what it is. (Technical data  COMS: 5 kW engine, top speed 37 mph, range 31 miles, recharge time 6 hours. Target markets: Pizza delivery, meter maids, young at heart seniors.)

If Autoblog, Slashgear, Edmunds et al would have witnessed the demonstration of the INSECT’s alleged smarts in person, their reporting would have been different. To open the gullwings, one has to stand in front of the apparatus, and, I kid you not, flap the arms. Allegedly, you will be authenticated via face recognition, and the flapping-arms gesture will be interpreted as an “open doors” command. After three attempts and a lot of arm waving, the gullwings flapped open. Only killjoys will remark that the doors only go down to chest height, leaving the legs exposed to the elements, and making access to the apparatus as easy as reaching inside. This is a nice feature for people who don’t want to go through the embarrassing arm waving routine.

While as the owner of a conventional COMS, or even a bicycle, you would have long delivered your Pizza Margarita, as an INSECT owner, you must first establish connectivity between car and smartphone, and then to the “cloud-based Toyota Smart Center.” Then, the destination must be determined via voice commands, and you finally get going.  (Don’t even ask how the INSECT could do compute-heavy face- and flapping arms detection while NOT connected to the cloud.)

Just to make sure, I asked a Toyota spokesman whether I need to take this seriously. The answer was a smile, and a “no.”

I was relieved.

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13 Comments on “The Truth About INSECTs...”


  • avatar
    harshciygar

    <3 when Bertel links to my website. Thanks for the TTAC love!

    Also, truf about gullwing doors. If the doors go up, the car won't come out.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    I think the wisdom needs an addendum in that non-SLS class concepts with gullwings will never see production. Assuming the Tesla crossover makes it I guess similarly exempt, also.

  • avatar
    DemosCat

    Really? I thought the 1954 Mercedes 300SL gullwing was a production car.

    The DeLorean and Bricklin gullwings were also production, albeit not in large numbers.

    Edit: But you’re right about no mainstream car ever having gullwing doors. I wonder why. Too radical? Too leaky in rain?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    If I ever get (one of) my dream jobs – delivering pizza (or beer) in Tokyo – I think I’ll stick to something smaller, like a Honda Gyro.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    I thought the whole gull wing thing was about letting crowds at the shows see the interior better.

    I also thought INSECTS were some kind of thing in Japan. Like a pet affection thing.

    Well, back to the lab.

  • avatar
    niky

    Honestly underwhelmed. Toyota has made some smashing single-seat concepts. This just isn’t one of them.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “According to a secret understanding among the world’s car companies, concept cars that will never see series production must be fitted with gullwing doors before they go on display.”

    Actually looking around a bit further this is complete nonsense – there are many, many production cars with gull wings – but relatively few similarly attired concept cars.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    Are 1 1/2 seaters w/o doors, heating really are the future of transportation? Any sales figures for COMSs or Twizys?


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