By on January 5, 2017

Toyota Conept-i

Yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota debuted its Concept-i — an adorable and attentive little cutie pie of a self-driving car.

While it’s too impressive to make it to production anytime remotely soon — especially since Toyota recently disavowed impending autonomy — it’s sweet to see a company embracing fun as a central design concept. It’s a major departure from the super-serious, steering-wheel-absent “driving solutions” hypothesized by other manufacturers. The Concept-i works with drivers, keeping traditional driving controls and offering a “chauffeur mode” when you’re not interested in using them.

The happy little concept makes use of “Yui,” Toyota’s artificial intelligence system that learns with the driver to build a relationship that feels meaningful and human. The AI monitors driver behavior and mood to determine some the vehicle’s actions while interacting with the driver. Toyota claims that, in manual mode, the system is non-invasive but can offer driving support if it suddenly notices an operator needs help.

Yui, which also monitors a driver’s emotional state, occupies a visual space primarily in the central console, though it can “move” around inside the car and appear on other screens when there’s less of a need to focus on what lies ahead.

Styling is almost classically futuristic — wedge shape, abundance of glass, and scissor doors. It also makes use of loads of exterior lighting so that you, or Yui, can better communicate with other motorists. Yui appears on exterior door panels to greet the driver and any passengers as they approach the vehicle. The rear of the vehicle can issue messages to communicate about upcoming turns or warn motorists about a potential hazard. Foul language and pointed insults are likely not part of its vocabulary.

“At Toyota, we recognize that the important question isn’t whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota. “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.”

Toyota might not be the company I expected to focus on a future of driving engagement, but with so many others interested only in “driverless mobility,” it’s a welcome addition to a very short list.

Toyota Conept-i

[Images: Toyota]

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8 Comments on “Toyota’s Futuristic Concept-i is the Best Friend You’ll Never Have...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I truly believe that Toyota quality makes the Germans look like amateurs. (Yup, having owned BMW and Mercedes brands, I speak from many weeks of donating my new cars to the repair shops only to revert to my Japanese second and third vehicles which never seemed to break.)

    However, I cannot get beyond their (IMHO) gawdawful styling. Quality is indeed most important, but gasp, one needs to walk up to the things and drive (or be drive by) them.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    It reminds me somewhat of Eve from WALL-E. The car can wink at you.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This just doesn’t resonate with a guy who thinks the pinnacle of automotive design was a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 with a V12 sucking premium gasoline through six, two-barrel, Weber carburetors.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Whose every single carb, required more maintenance than every single Toyota build over the past decade combined….

      I’m with you on carbed, Ferrari 12s as far as driver involvement goes, but as a DD, I’d still rather have a 1st gen, manual IS300.

      Unfortunately, even that bulls eye hit to the dead center of the driver involvement / low maintenance tradeoff, is passe these days. So, I’ll settle for a 6mt plug in hybrid with 60 mile electric range. With an Atkinson 3.0 I6 alongside a 150hp electric motor…. Wagon and ‘vert versions, of course. With radar cruise and an open standards/open source rack for installing infotainment in the center stack. That ought to last me until Asimo can take over driving and flying duties once and for all.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    If you were looking for an automotive fashion statement, Smartcar/Prowler,Thunderbird/i8 etc. wouldn’t even come close to this.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Is it me, or does this look like a half-size version of the Chrysler thing they showed at CES this week?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It looks like something you’d see in the movie “Sleeper”, with Woody Allen.

  • avatar

    One thing I’ve always found interesting is the non real world length of the “fender skirts” on these kind of vehicles. The carbon fiber/plastic/whatever would get torn up rather quickly if driven on real world streets and roadways.


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