Industry followers know the endless talk of autonomous vans and electric ride-share services taking over congested cities in place of conventional cars.
Clearly self-proclaimed 'mobility provider' Toyota does as well, since one of the gems at its Tokyo motor show stand — called a ‘theme park’, bereft of any production cars and instead filled with ride-sharing pods, robots, and virtual reality tech — was a topless single-seater called the e-Racer (above).
Quite literally, the accompanying information on this tiny and chic (presumably designed to be electric) concept is limited to: “A sports car of the future with a virtual tailor that creates bespoke racing suits”. That’s it.
But what was more interesting was the rationale behind making it. Toyota boss, and keen race-car driver, Akio Toyoda’s keynote speech explained his view that everyone in the future could one day have their own sports car, if practical needs were met by shared mobility services. No compromises, in other words.
“Won't kinds of mobility like [ride sharing pods] mean that cars will end up not being owned? I certainly hope not. Shared mobility will lead to people owning forms of mobility that are more personal,” he conjectured.
“The cars in everyone's garages will all be sports cars, like this e-Racer. Well, that's a little overstating it, but wanting to move about as one wishes, and wanting to go faster and farther are, I think, universal human desires.
“The birth of the automobile led to 15 million horses being replaced by cars in the United States, but still we have racehorses. The joy of riding a horse can hold its own against, or even outdo, what cars have to offer.
"If there is an obstacle, a horse can avoid it. If there is a hole in the ground, a horse can make its own judgement and jump over it. Horses can communicate with people. For people who ride them, horses are irreplaceable."
"Through the evolution of artificial intelligence, I think that cars, too, can also become able to communicate with people and their hearts. That's right. I think cars of the future will be like horses," Toyoda continued.
"If we look at shared forms of mobility, such as the e-Palette, as if they were horse carriages, forms of mobility owned by individuals, like the e-Racer, would be ‘beloved horses’.
"I would say that this means that our future society of mobility will be a society in which horse carriages and ‘beloved horses co-exist. And what people want of beloved horses’ is heartfelt communication and the joy of moving together.”
The e-Racer was the least strange thing on Toyota’s Tokyo stand, which also included:
- The remote-controlled T-HR3 humanoid robot. Designed to help improve the lives of patients or people with limited mobility, it moves its entire body in tandem with the movements of the operator.
- The HSR robotic arm, which can recognise its surroundings and travel autonomously or by remote control, utilising its omni-directional wheels. It will work at next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games guiding guests to their seats and bringing them meals.
- The e-4me single-seat autonomous vehicle that allows an occupant to travel while enjoying hobbies and pastimes, such as a gym workout. Apparently.
- The e-Palette self-driving urban delivery van. It's said to powered by a prototype of Toyota's solid-state battery.
- The Micro Palette miniature robotic water carrier.
- The e-Charge Air, a mobile wireless battery charger designed to juice up other electric vehicles while in transit. It also incorporates an air purifier, and the ability to feed surplus power into the grid.
- The e-Care autonomous ambulance that allows a passenger to talk with a doctor and undergo a medical exam while en route to the hospital. This vehicle goes where it is needed, including a customer's home or other destinations.
- And most crazily, the e-Broom, a disguised electric scooter modelled on “a broom used by a witch to fly through the air”.
‘Real-world’ unveilings at its home motor show include an all-new Yaris hatch including hybrid-electric power, the second-generation of Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan, and the Ultra-Compact BEV (battery-electric vehicle) that will be launched in Japan late next year.