The Consumer Electronic Show has long dedicated a pavilion set aside for automobile technology. But where in years past, the auto hall was intended to showcase numerous auto audio, navigation, and comfort accessories manufacturers, in recent years CES has evolved into another unofficial automobile industry event. Bona fide, newsworthy concept vehicles are unveiled to crowds, some as exciting and imaginative as the Toyota Concept-i.
The gleaming white exterior of Toyota Concept-i is characterized by its low drag-coefficient, elongated egg-shaped body, one dramatically intersected by a sharp boomerang of glass that reveals the lower half of the interior cabin. Gullwing doors offer easy ingress, if not also a histrionic feature. The entire interior is bathed in the glow of lines of blue OLEDs, lights and displays designed for illumination, but also to impart the Concept-i with a personality connected to the core of its central artificial intelligence.
Toyota engineered the Concept-i as an interactive experience between driver and an advanced AI agent they’ve nicknamed “Yui”. This AI – whether used in automated or steered manually – continually and actively monitors the behavior of its occupants: comfort preferences, driving habits, and even a driver’s emotional state.
Toyota’s prognostication on wheels is a more robust equivalent of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri: an ever vigilant, always ready to help digital companion imbued with anthropomorphic personality, a ghost in the machine. Touch interface, a windshield-projected HUD, haptic feedback, and active notifications across the interior cabin connect driver (or occupants) to contextual and anticipatory servings of information – a technological manifestation of the Japanese cultural concept of hospitality known as “omotenashi”.
In other words, Toyota wants us to establish a meaningful and long-lasting friendship with our car, literally.
The Concept-i is intended to be a more than just a concept car, an evaluative proof-of-concept design that will grace Japanese roads in some shape or form with the purpose of fine-tuning and evolving what they’ve revealed with this vision of the future. The future will undoubtedly be autonomous, but here’s to hoping we can occasionally grab the wheel to enjoy the thrill of the road – and dutiful companionship – as offered by the Toyota Concept-i.