At CES 2017, Toyota unveiled a new concept vehicle called Concept-i. This new concept is all about the user experience. “With all the talk about advances in automobile technology, it’s easy to lose sight of why we make cars in the first place. They’re for people,” said Bob Carter, senior vice-president at Toyota. “And at Toyota, we think the important question isn’t whether vehicles of the future will be equipped with automated or connected technologies. Of course they will. The important question is this: what will be the relationship between those vehicles and the people who use them?”
“Cars have always done more than just get us from point A to point B,” Carter continued. “They are our home on wheels. We connect with them. We build an emotional relationship. And thanks to our research into advanced artificial intelligence, we think that the future of the automobile is a vehicle that can connect with us right back.”
Toyota aspires to build the vehicle of the future with technology that is engaging, immersive, warm and friendly.
Introducing Concept-I and Yui
With a human connection in mind, Toyota revealed the Concept-i. At the core of this vehicle is an advanced artificial intelligence system called Yui (pronounced you-eee). Yui can learn and grow with drivers. It remembers your lifestyle and your favourite places to go. It can detect your emotional state, whether you are happy or sad. Yui can start a conversation with you and make you aware of internal and external situations while on your trip and even calm you down if it detects that you’re anxious. Of course, the Concept-i is fully autonomous.
The car is very cool with all its doors opening vertically. However, it still in early research and development mode. As announced last year at CES, Toyota has set up the Toyota Research Institute in Palo Alto and Cambridge and the institute is dedicated to research on artificial intelligence as it applies to autonomous cars. The Toyota Research Institute continues to believe that the level 5 autonomous car is far away, however the level 4 autonomous car could arrive in a decade. With a level 4 autonomous car the driver must be prepared to take over and drive manually where risk of an accident or danger to passengers is high. When available, will Canadians embrace an autonomous vehicle? A recent study by Kanetix.ca indicates that while 26 per cent of Canadians are excited about using autonomous cars, 56 per cent are waiting to see how this technology is going to work.