The race to autonomous driving has been dictated by the need to make the road safer and reduce the incidents of vehicle crashes. Several major carmakers in the world have already entered the race, with tech giants Google and Apple also developing the technology for cars that could drive by themselves. Now, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2017) being held in Las Vegas, Toyota is presenting a one-of-a-kind concept that represents its goals and aspirations for autonomous driving.
With the Toyota Concept-i, the Japanese carmaker is letting the world know that the driver is still very much involved in its vision of autonomous driving. The Toyota Concept-i allows its users to become the driver, or become the passenger-commuter. It imagines a future in which driving technologies have become human-like, transforming the car into a travel companion instead of just a transportation tool. With the new Concept-i, Toyota hopes to create a car that is good enough to be not engaged in any road accident or crash, while still providing an enjoyable driving experience.
Center to this goal is the advanced AI (artificial intelligence) that takes care of a variety of things for the driver. Christened by Toyota as Yui, this AI doesn’t only connect with the driver, but engages with him or her to ensure that the drive to any destination is both safe and enjoyable. For instance, Yui – whether the Concept-i is in manual driving or automated mode – continuously monitors road activity (the driver’s focus and road conditions), providing increased levels of automated driving support as needed to boost driver engagement or to help steer through dangerous road conditions.
Thanks to this engagement, the Toyota Concept-i offers a safer, more sustainable autonomous driving, even when the driver is behind the wheel. Gill Pratt, chief executive Toyota Research Institute, said at the CES 2017 that the Concept-i represents a step towards creating a Yui-powered autonomous car that is incapable of causing a crash.
Pratt disclosed that Concept-i would introduce two new safety systems: "Chauffeur" and "Guardian." In Chauffeur mode, the Concept-i would offer up to five levels of autonomy, although Pratt admitted that no carmaker has yet to achieve a level-five autonomy to date. Meanwhile, Guardian system would be a package of the evolved versions of the safety technologies currently available on today’s cars – plus a few more that would be developed in the future.
Interestingly, Toyota is not planning to sit idle and make things remain as a concept. It really hopes to bring some of the technologies presented on the Concept-i to its production cars in the near future. To achieve this, the carmaker will continually collaborate with MIT, Stanford and the University of Michigan. In fact, the Toyota Research Institute has made investments in dedicated facilities in Massachusetts, and at the Mobility Transformation Center in Ann Arbor.