The Truth About INSECTs

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
the truth about insects

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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  • Robert Gordon Robert Gordon on Oct 02, 2012

    "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.

  • W.Minter W.Minter on Oct 02, 2012

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

  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.
  • Craiger Honestly I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of steering feel. I dropped off my 530 at the dealer in New Jersey and picked up the Z. Driving all of my familiar roads I was just shocked at how much info wasn't coming through the wheel. Because of that I was never able to push the Z like I did the 530.