Japanese carmaker Suzuki has opened the 2019 Tokyo motor show by unveiling a car without a steering wheel or a driver’s seat.
The Suzuki Hanare is only a concept car designed as a motor show tease for now, but the company says it's a sign of things to come as the automotive world shifts to autonomous motoring.
The word Hanare is Japanese for “a detached cottage” or separate living space.
About the size of an old Volkswagen Kombi van, the symmetrically designed pod has no driver’s seats and no steering wheel, giving occupants a 360-degree view of their surroundings.
While the thought of autonomous vehicles may appeal to drivers tired of the daily commute – or to those who might want their car to take them home after a big night out – the reality is that such technology is still decades away from being infallible.
The world’s carmakers had predicted fully autonomous vehicles would be in showrooms by 2020 or soon after, but one-by-one the big brands have pushed back their forecasts as they encounter problems during testing.
While it is relatively easy for cars to work autonomously in freeway situations, the technology struggles in city and suburban driving, where it needs to detect pedestrians, cyclists and traffic signals, as well as navigating around unusual driving behaviour such as a double-parked car or a garbage truck.
The cameras and sensors also struggle in adverse weather conditions such as rain, fog and snow.
In the meantime, the world’s carmakers will continue to tease motoring fans with concepts like the Suzuki Hanare and others.
And fully autonomous vehicles could still be decades away from the real world in all driving conditions.