Toyota's Futuristic Concept-i is the Best Friend You'll Never Have

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
toyota s futuristic concept i is the best friend you ll never have

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.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jan 06, 2017

    It looks like something you'd see in the movie "Sleeper", with Woody Allen.

  • THX1136 THX1136 on Jan 06, 2017

    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.

  • Wolfwagen I would rather have an annual inspection that may catch something early or at least the driver can be informed of an impending issue. Government vs private is another issue and unscrupulous mechanics is another.On a slightly different topic is the inspection of salvage or rebuilt cars. In NYS it is strictly to ensure that stolen parts were not used to rebuild the vehicle. I would rather see an inspection to ensure that the vehicle has been properly put back together.
  • PeterPuck For years, Ford has simply reworked existing designs originating from Europe and Japanese manufacturers, not being capable of designing a decent car in the USA.What’s the last clean sheet design from the USA? The 1986 Taurus?And they still can’t manage to get things right.why is this? Are they putting all of the competent engineers and designers on the F150? Is woke diversification affecting them, as some rumours suggest? Are they rewarding incompetence?
  • Brandon What is a "city crossover"?
  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).