Sunday drive with Hormazd Sorabjee: What stood out at the Tokyo Motor show
Mobility was the new mantra at the Tokyo Motor Show. Yes, the prevalent theme was still electrification, but car makers have gone beyond that to shared mobility, autonomous driving and even beyond the car itself.
Gold for oldies
Japanese car makers are now thinking of small, robotised wheeled machines as mobility solutions especially for the ageing population of Japan where 33 per cent of its citizens are over 65 years old. That’s where cool concepts like Toyota’s ‘Concept-I’ come as a heaven sent solution for the elderly. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, Toyota envisions a future where wheelchairs can autonomously be driven into cars like the I-RIDE and for people who struggle to get around on their own two feet, the I-WALK, a high-tech three wheeled scooter, whizzes them around to places you could normally walk to. A high-powered computer, on-board connectivity and a high-tech guidance system, all linked together by some serious AI software does it all seamlessly and safely.
Suzuki too had its own gig for senior citizens with a cute little robot named ‘Mitra’. Yes, for friend in Hindi! What Mitra does, using a sophisticated Lidar-based guidance system, is follow the owner around like a puppy dog. It serves as a small table to put your things on, or as an automatically guided shopping cart with a built-in check out function for old people to circumvent massive queues in Japanese supermarkets. Yes, this is R2D2 for real!
Full speed ahead
Suzuki was in full form with wacky concepts like the retro-styled Suzuki Waku SPO, a plug-in hybrid concept that can be customised to change its shape! It can go from an estate to a coupe body style by retracting the rear section. Also on display was the ‘Hanare,’ which means ‘detached cottage’ in English! It looks like an oversized Maruti Omni and is stretched disproportionately at the ends to free up interior space, which is like a mobile living room. Remember, this is the vision of a world where cars will drive themselves.
The Lexus LF-30 puts the driver firmly at its heart, which is a very powerful all-electric motor. Actually four compact motors. Most high-performance electric cars make do with two motors but Lexus plans to have one for each wheel. It’s not a new idea, but putting it into production is a challenge as it’s hard to balance and modulate the
power between four wheels. Lexus says it should crack this challenge when the production version of this car goes on sale in 2020. It could come straight out of the next Star Wars movie and those 24 inch wheels look like flying saucers.
Love thy vehicle
Toyota want cars to be loved. That’s the whole idea behind the Toyota LQ concept, which aims to be your ‘friend’ and that friend is Yui, a Siri-like personal assistant, but much more. The AI in Yui will predict when you’re sleepy, hungry or late for a meeting and respond accordingly. If it senses you’re tired, it will release strong fragrances to cheer you up. It’s a bit crazy, but not as unbelievable as it sounds.
In a show packed with future concepts the only relevant car for India was the 2020 Honda Jazz. But Honda won’t be bringing it to India and that’s a shame. The stubby nose (not sure if I like it) and those ultra-slim A-pillars are standout features from the current Jazz we have. The interior is funkier too. Looks like we’ll have to make do with the current Jazz for a while. And that thought brought me down to earth with a bang.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, November 3, 2019
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch