Toyota Debuts Concept-i Series of Electric 'Mobility Solutions'

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While we enjoy a concept car that isn’t set so far into the hypothetical future that it’s almost impossible to imagine the world in which it could exist, it’s also fun to see less-than-realistic designs emerge in a vehicle that is pure science fiction. Pursuing the latter mindset, Toyota has decided to expand upon the original Concept-i car with an entire series of “mobility vehicles” — each intended to help deliver a tomorrow where you are no longer required to walk.

Now part of a full lineup of experimental vehicles, Toyota views the Concept i-Ride and Concept i-Walk as supplementary modes of transportation for last January’s original four-seat concept. That vehicle debuted as more of a robotic friend than an traditional automobile. Toyota even went so far as to propose an artificial intelligence system that allowed the i-car to build a relationship with the driver that “feels meaningful and human.”

The smaller units lack the Concept-i’s personality but are absolutely in step with its unapologetically futuristic styling. The theory, as Toyota sees it, is to save the four-seater’s superior 300-km range for family outings and long-range commuting. During the trip, the vehicle suggests new routes, places to stop, and constantly monitors your nonverbal cues so that it can anticipate how best to serve you (be it by using predictive reasoning to prevent a crash or facial recognition to know when it’s time to create a more relaxing environment in the cabin).

Meanwhile, drivers can use their svelte i-Ride two-seater for quicker trips into the city — either as the vehicle’s primary owner or someone renting it by the hour. Essentially a half-scale version of the i-Concept, the i-Ride’s 100-150 km range is intended for lighter duty and urban commutes. While it shares much of its design with the larger model, Toyota sees it as filling an entirely different role — and even attempting to make it handicap accessible by replacing the steering wheel and pedals with twin joysticks. It also has autonomous capabilities that allow for easy parking and low-speed maneuvers requiring precision. There’s even a compartment in the back for a wheelchair or, if you prefer, Toyota i-Walk.

However, the i-Walk is the most difficult portion of the trio to make a genuine case for. It’s reminiscent of Ford’s Carr-E, which was a 25-pound mobility disk intended to take you and your personal belongings on the last leg of a journey. While a fun concept, the practical applications for Carr-E seemed comically limited. It’s too heavy to hoist in and out of your car on a regular basis and its standing design required occupants to remain upright as it cruised slowly along the pavement.

By comparison, the i-Walk appears to be about as useful as a Segway and serves a very similar function. Designed with some amount of ergonomics in mind, Toyota claims the electrified trike can be used by anyone wanting to enjoy a 10-20 km walking tour without straining their legs.

It’s highly reminiscent of Toyota’s i-Real motorized wheelchair, albeit pared down substantially. Toyota planned to place the i-Real on sale in 2010 but nothing ever came of it, which was unfortunate considering how much promise it held for those without the ability to walk. We expect a similar fate for the rest of the Concept-i Series.

They’re certainly interesting ideas but the i-Walk doesn’t offer anything new, the i-Ride is too small to ever enter into production, and the i-Concept promises features no automaker could possibly deliver on. That said, it is nice to see Toyota experimenting and playing outside the box. Even if we don’t see these vehicles outside of automotive exhibitions, maybe the automaker can find a way to roll the key attributes into more practical production models someday.

Still, if you want to enjoy the future fantasy now, the trio will be on display at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show starting October 25th.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corp.]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Land Ark Land Ark on Oct 17, 2017

    This is the first time I've realized that self-driving cars don't need headlights. They just need lights to be seen. Of course, using lights on your car to be seen seems to be a foreign concept to a lot of Toyota drivers.

  • Turf3 Turf3 on Oct 17, 2017

    This kind of stuff is like architects' "concept" drawings for 200 story apartment blocks and the like. I have never been able to understand the fascination of adults with this kind of thing; I got over it once I had filled my algebra notebook with these kinds of concept cars in 10th grade. Of course, a Brompton folding bicycle does much of what is being promoted here, for a lot less money; but there are no computers involved, so it must be "old school" and "Luddite". Anyway, these kinds of concepts are cheap entertainment in the same way as superhero movies, but I am amused by posters who argue over this or that detail. It's like complaining about a violation of the laws of physics in a Superman movie - "wait, you're complaining about inaccuracy in a movie about a BULLETPROOF GUY WHO FLIES?"

    • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Oct 17, 2017

      I know what you mean. I got called out for complaining about how unrealistic it was that 9-year old Anikan Skywalker could fly a space ship and kill a bunch of bad guys in Star Wars: A Phantom Menace. I mean, come on! It just wouldn't happen!

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.