Tuesday October 17, 2017
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The Toyota Concept-i RIDE — Toyota pic via AFPThe Toyota Concept-i RIDE — Toyota pic via AFPTOKYO, Oct 17 — Toyota will use the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show to debut a suite of autonomous vehicles under a new Concept-I Series marque that it believes could be the solution to giving the elderly and disabled greater freedom, mobility and independence.

If the Concept-I name sounds familiar, it's because Toyota unveiled the first Concept-I car back in January at CES in Las Vegas and called it the company's vision of a future where AI-infused cars work in harmony with their owner.

However, that was just the start, and in Tokyo on October 25 the original will be joined by two other models, the Concept-I RIDE and the Concept-I WALK.

The former is a single-seater, joystick-operated car with extremely compact dimensions — it's just 2.5 metres long. For some comparison, a Fiat 500 measures 3.57m from retro nose to tail. However, the car is designed as a single-seater with sufficient interior space to accommodate a wheelchair user, while still keeping the exterior compact enough to negotiate and navigate the urban jungle that is downtown Tokyo.

To this extent, the car's gullwing door can also help the driver to move from wheelchair to driver's seat and back again in one, swift, mechanised movement.

This is also why the car is controlled completely via a joystick rather than with a steering wheel and pedals. The instrument cluster's main screen is designed to augment and improve any journey providing information about disabled access in the surrounding area for example, and the car has a range of 100-150km before its batteries need recharging.

The car can, when asked, park itself or exit tight spaces, and Toyota sees the car as a shared vehicle, helping as many people with restricted mobility within a specific area to get out and about.

The Concept-I WALK is another attempt to help people solve the transport conundrum of the final mile. It's a sleek, teardrop shaped three-wheel scooter that offers ultimate maneuverability and a range of 10-20km on a single charge.

It is ultra-compact in design so that it can be driven among pedestrians in predominantly pedestrian areas and can autonomously take evasive action to ensure it never bangs into others walking around it. Based on the rider's needs and physical capabilities, it can be controlled via traditional handlebars or via shifting one's weight from side to side.

Toyota has gone to great lengths to ensure that the step up on to the scooter from the ground is so low that age, gender or sartorial elegance (Toyota gives the example of a woman in a long dress), shouldn't restrict its use.

Its autonomous and connected vehicle technology should also ensure that it perfectly plugs the inherent gaps in a public transit system, getting the rider to his or her next destination, whether a subway station or bus terminus, exactly at the right moment to continue their journey. — AFP-Relaxnews

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