Another car news conference and another concept car, today it was Toyota’s turn with its Concept-i. I’ll touch on that in just a moment. BUT the big news is the concession that fully autonomous, driverless cars are not even close but in fact decades away!
I was surprised by some of the frankness shown at today’s event and it was music to my ears when Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota said “We don’t just want to build technology on wheels”. Essentially Toyota understands that it seems at the end of the day there must be some kind of relationship between driver and car.
Sure autonomous vehicles are well and truly on its radar, but on the following scale you can expect just No. 3 to be achieved anytime soon. The path to autonomous driving was laid out as:
- No Automation
- Driver Assistance
- Partial Automation
- Conditional Automation
- High Automation
- Full Automation
So while for some it’s exciting to ponder the wonders of Artificial Intelligence advancements, at the end of the day we are so far off what is often spruiked, it’s not even funny.
What is mildly amusing is the Concept-i, what a strange looking creation that is. But being a prototype it does at least show off some of the things Toyota has in its bag of tricks. Designed with a “people that use it” philosophy the Concept-i features a sophisticated A.I. interface that is made user-friendly via what is known as “Yui”.
Yui is like a friend, learning all about you and the world around you. It communicates with the occupants via a myriad of different ways. Visually it uses light, sound and touch across various parts of the cabin but it avoids the screen on the centre console.
Even the exterior is able to display warnings for other motorists such as upcoming hazards, plus Yui can even greet you on arrival. Yes I’m afraid to say it’s another Siri of the car world.
There is, as you’d expect, that level 3 level of automation I mentioned, and yes it’s very smart and sophisticated. But it is still a totally human reliant system.
So while it’s unlikely the Concept-i will ever hit the road at least we know Toyota does not have its heads in the clouds, the steering wheel is safe for now.