by Hiroshi Hiyama
TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — From a car that wants to be your friend to another that burns off the fat: here are five hot vehicles on display at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The biennial event opens for a media preview on Wednesday, before throwing its doors open to the public until November 5.
The event will feature concept vehicles from top Japanese manufacturers, as well as fresh offerings from major European firms, such as Volkswagen, Peugeot Citroen and Volvo.
An ‘understanding’ car
The petrol heads that flock to the Tokyo Motor may really love their car but now there’s a car that loves them back.
Artificial intelligence is making further inroads into cars, with vehicles monitoring emotions, alertness, and stress levels for safe driving, including offering an option to take the wheel if the driver is tired or stressed.
Japanese giant Toyota has created a series of concept vehicles that aims to “understand” the driver so that machine and user can bond as “partners.”
“It loves you back,” said one Toyota executive.
The headline unit of Toyota’s “Concept-i” is a futuristic four-wheel model that talks to the motorist like a confidant.
It reviews the person’s behavior patterns, as well as latest news and social media activity, to assess what the driver needs or wants to hear in a given situation, like offering comforting words to a parent after a fight with a teenage daughter inside the vehicle.
Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi will also feature vehicles assisted by artificial intelligence that analyzes the driver, passengers and road conditions for a safe and comfortable ride.
Country for old men
Japan is well on its way to becoming the first “ultra-aged” society, with 28 percent of the population over 65 and the car industry is doing its best for those who need a little help.
Toyota will showcase a vision for a two-seater electric vehicle that uses a joystick for easy operation, assisted by auto-drive technology.
Its design and spacious interior allow wheelchair users to easily transfer to the driver’s seat.
The vehicle also provides information on whether the driver’s destination is wheelchair-friendly.
Toyota will also display a Segway-like personal mobility unit called Concept-i Walk.
But unlike Segway, the concept unit monitors the surrounding environment and the operator’s physical and psychological conditions to ensure a safe ride.
Diet ‘n drive
For fitness freaks frustrated by the sedentary nature of driving, car-seat maker TS Tech has the answer, a seat that allows you to burn the calories on the road.
The seat surface shifts from side-to-side, exercising the pelvis and various muscles and burning off, so the firm claims from testing, as much as 100 calories in half an hour of driving.
When the dream of fully automated driving becomes a reality, there will be a much greater opportunity for in-car exercise, says the firm.
Fittingly in gadget-obsessed Japan, several car manufacturers are unveiling extras for vehicles that make life run that little bit more smoothly.
Smartphone texting app Line is teaming up with Toyota to show off “Clova,” a cyber assistant that can read text messages for motorists that cannot bear to disconnect while driving, among a range of other functions.
With automated driving all the rage, Honda will showcase its “NeuV” electric vehicle concept that drives itself, even when unmanned, so that multiple people can share the car.
This could be especially popular in Japan where many urban motorists are reluctant to buy cars because they only drive at the weekend.
Sporty, Olympic electric cars
As tighter emission regulations around the world force global automakers to develop electric units, manufacturers at the show will be parading their latest offerings, with the emphasis on polished, sporty design.
Nissan has put its LEAF electric in the hands of its motor sports engineers to create the NISMO concept that also offers autonomous drive features.
Honda is staying secretive, but has promised to unveil “Honda Sports EV Concept” for the first time.
Mitsubishi is displaying its e-Evolution concept, billed as a “high-performance all-electric crossover SUV.”
Meanwhile, Toyota will show off a hydrogen powered fuel-cell bus concept named “Sora,” which will serve as a base for 100 buses to be introduced next year to run in Tokyo ahead of 2020 Olympics.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity that can then be used to power vehicles or home generators.
© Agence France-Presse