The Future Looks Bright

Concept-i features a user interface that builds a relationship with drivers
by Dan Nied
Jan/Feb 2017
The Future Looks Bright
Experience the Future
The Concept-i, with its sleek shape and angled curves, looks like something out of a science fiction movie.
Toyota’s new concept vehicle, the Concept-i, looks nothing like the cars of today.

That’s kind of the point.

Swooping lines and a low center of gravity give it a futuristic look, but it stops short of being cold and lifeless. It’s “kinetic,” “exciting” and “passionate” and signals a future in which cars and drivers team up to create a fun, safe experience.

Designed by Toyota's CALTY design studio and introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Concept-i features an interactive user interface named Yui, an advanced artificial intelligence system that could make the future of driving a lot more fun.

Yui and I
The Concept-i's creative interior features Yui, a user interface that appears all over the car to help out the driver.

“At Toyota, we think the important question isn’t whether vehicles of the future will be equipped with automated or connected technologies. Of course they will,” says Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations. “The important question is this: What will be the relationship between those vehicles and the people who use them? Will it be cold? Robotic? Sterile? Tool-like? Technology on wheels and nothing more? Or will it be warm and friendly? Engaging? Immersive?"

The Yui Experience
“Yui learns from us, grows with us and builds a relationship that is meaningful and emotional," Carter says. “What does that mean? Yui learns our preferences and our lifestyle, remembers where we like to go, pays attention to when we’re happy or sad, and helps in ways that are big and small to anticipate our needs and improve our lives.”

But Yui is about more than planning your route from one place to another. It’s about using your driving data to learn about your tendencies and making life easier.

“The more you drive, the smarter Yui gets. It learns to anticipate your needs,” Carter says. “Yui uses sophisticated biometric systems to monitor the driver’s attention, and can work to trade off control of the vehicle between automated and manual driving.”

That Beautiful Car
The CALTY team used a concept called kinetic warmth to guide every inch of the Concept-i. The belief is that the future shouldn’t start with technology, but rather the experience of those who use it. So instead of your basic utilitarian future concept, the Concept-i was built to be immersive, warm and energetic.

It’s got a 3-D head-up display for the driver, so information appears magically on the dashboard, the walls or even the seats when you need it. Lines travel throughout the vehicle, and Yui travels around them, using sight, sound and touch to fill you in on important information.

The interface begins with the visual representation of Yui, designed to communicate across cultures to a global audience. With Yui’s home centered on the dashboard, Concept-i’s interior emanates around the driver and passenger and throughout the vehicle in sweeping lines, with interior shapes designed to enhance Yui’s ability to use light, sound and even touch to communicate critical information.

In fact, Concept-i avoids distracting screens on the central console to reveal information when and where it’s needed. Instead, colored lights in the foot wells indicate whether the vehicle is in automated or manual drive; discrete projectors in the rear deck project views onto the seat pillar to warn about blind spots, and helps keep the driver’s eyes and attention on the road.

Even the exterior of the vehicle is designed to enable Concept-i to engage with the world around it. Yui appears on exterior door panels to greet driver and passengers as they approach the vehicle. The rear of the concept shows messages to following vehicles about upcoming turns or potential hazard. The front of the vehicle communicates whether the Concept-i is in automated or manual drive.

Of course, the Concept-i is just that: a concept. And it won’t be on the road in the near future. Its mere presence indicates one important thing about where we are going.

“It all comes back to using technology to help people in ways that are big and small,” Carter says. “And thanks to Yui’s advanced automated driving technologies, it’s a car that people with all levels of ability are going to be able to experience.”
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