Toyota Unveils Concept-i car, Plans for Automotive Future

Toyota's concept car is on display during their press conference, Jan. 4, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nev. Photo by Alexandra Wimley/BU News Service

By Charles Borsos
BU News Service

Toyota introduced a suite of technologies at CES 2017 on Wednesday, with the Concept-i acting as the vessel to display artificial intelligence systems, new safety devices, and their overall philosophy about the relationship cars will have with people in the future.

Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations, said that “of course” cars of the future are going to be automatic, autonomous, and connected. But he also said that Toyota didn’t want them to be “robotic” or “cold.”

The Concept-i showed what Carter called the “kinetic warmth” aesthetic, as well as Toyota’s attempt to build a “home on wheels.” While the bright and shiny Concept-i was certainly flashy — doors opening vertically and winking headlights — in many ways, it was simply a canvas to show off more lofty ambitions than a simple car model: the Yui artificial intelligence system. 


The company said that Yui would be the backbone of its development of future smarter cars.“The more you drive, the smarter Yui gets,” said Carter.

The latter part of the presentation was taken over by the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and its CEO Gill Pratt. While he touched briefly on TRI’s goals in robotics and mobility access, the main focus was on vehicle safety. More specifically, what the move toward driver-less systems could mean with regard to safety.

Pratt said Toyota was proceeding on a two-track approach called Guardian and Chauffeur. The first is using technology to intervene only to prevent crashes. The second is a longer term goal of truly driver-less cars.

Pratt gave an overview of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ classifications of driving automation. He said that no one in the industry was close to the goal of fully autonomous cars and that TRI did not see that as realistic for a few decades. In the meantime, Pratt said that Toyota was looking to make improvements to safety along their two path plan with Yui AI powering future systems.

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