Let me just start out by saying that while, yes, so much of what Toyota is showing at the Tokyo Motor Show is deeply and richly bonkers, this is precisely what auto shows are for. Do I really think Toyota is going to be cornering that lucrative Quidditch market with their Nimbus 2000-killing e-Broom? No. But is it, along with all those friendly robots and pod-cars, more interesting than a plug-in Camry? Hell yeah. Let them play.
Toyota’s whole booth has been turned into a “Future Playground,” a goofily-optimistic micro-wonderland of the future. Really, this just goes back to an old tradition that American automakers used to love, big car companies imagining idyllic futures. Remember GM’s Futurama?
Here’s how Toyota describes what they’re up to:
At this Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota proposes a future that centers on people, a future in which “beloved cars” realize the experience of “fun to drive” for each customer, alongside a wide range of mobility that responds thoroughly to each customer’s needs.
Now, exactly what customer needs something like an e-Broom is up for debate, unless Toyota is planning on branching out to market segments that list “fictional” in their demographic profile. Maybe they’ve tapped out the Muggle market with Corollas?
The description of the e-Broom doesn’t really answer many questions:
“It flies through the air? Experience first-hand mobility of the future!
Modeled after a broom used by a witch to fly through the air, this mobility platform integrates people and machines, allowing users to reaffirm the enjoyment of mobility.”
Is that a little handle-ornament there, or a gushing water fountain? I guess the white bit in the middle is the seat? Is that a kickstand?
Somewhat more practical for actual reality is their e-Chargeair, essentially a robot battery that finds EVs that need power, pulls up close, and charges them wirelessly.
The design is sort of like a bench on wheels, though I do like the minimalistic approach taken to the lighting design with the edge-lit clear panels standing in for the head and taillights.
Essentially, Toyota made a faster and sleeker GNK droid from Star Wars. I think something generally like this could have a place in an EV-heavy future; I even suggested a similar (albeit much clunkier) concept a while back.
There’s also an interesting asymmetrically-designed e-Racer concept, which appears to have some kind of dynamic seating system that forms itself to the driver’s body. It looks like this will have a VR component, so you can sit in it and feel like you’re actually racing. According to their video, this is something you do right after brushing your teeth?
It’s not an improbable design for a future electric track car, though; something like this could, hypothetically, be like an EV Caterham 7 or Ariel Atom.
Toyota is also showing a number of things that fit more into the robotics category than the mobility category, though there is increasing overlap there.
There are these ring-shaped hexa-wheeled delivery bots they’re calling the Micro Palette, and it appears they’re able to team up to carry larger loads, which is interesting.
Toyota is also showing actual humans in funny outfits, calling them “People of the future” (ask them for hot stock tips, I guess) and they have two general-purpose robots, a humanoid one that will mirror a human’s actions, presumably so you can play rock-paper-scissors with it, and a mobile robotic arm that’s designed to “transport objects.”
Speaking of rock-paper-scissors-playing tech, Toyota is also showing an ambulance-like medical autonomous vehicle called e-Care. Somewhat bafflingly, the description of the vehicle includes this:
“Experience a medical exam of the future using a facial version of the well-known game ‘rock-paper-scissors’.”
A...facial version of rock-paper-scissors? Is slapping involved? How does that relate to a medical exam? Maybe if you have a stab wound from a pair of scissors, or blunt trauma from a rock?
After all this, the Toyota e-Trans, an autonomous ride-sharing vehicle for people and cargo, feels pretty straightforward. It’s a decent design for an AV, and it looks like that vertical strip, edge-lit lighting design motif is something Toyota is playing with across the board.
The overall design direction actually looks pretty good, far cleaner and sleeker than their current overdone, vent-addled madness.
There’s also this odd pairing of some sort of autonomous vehicles as tiny mobile businesses, like a gym or, um some kind of fashion consultant/clothes shop, a recording studio, and so on. Watch the video up there. Is this for some future where remaining stationary for any time at all equals death?
There’s a lot of bonkersism going on here, and none of these things are likely intended for production at all, but, this is also what car shows are for: show off some crazy, exciting shit and see what happens.
I’m not going to fault Toyota for that.
Except maybe for the broom.