At an electronics show in Japan, Toyota is this week showing off its Smart Insect concept, a tiny one-seat city car. The name stands for “information network social electric city transporter,” and the car itself demonstrates Toyota’s vision for high-tech vehicles of the future.
The Smart Insect concept looks like a narrower version of city cars like the Smart ForTwo or Scion iQ, with some sort of battery-electric drivetrain. The small doors open upwards, and the interior has an aircraft-like yoke rather than a traditional steering wheel.
The main draw of the Toyota concept, however, is what Toyota calls the Smart Center. The in-car computer system can use motion sensors and cameras to recognize the face of the vehicle owner, automatically unlocking the car and flashing the lights in greeting when the driver approaches. The driver can operate functions like the lights and navigation system simply by speaking, and a smartphone app allows the owner to control the Smart Insect remotely. The entire car’s dashboard appears to have been replaced by a large, tablet computer-like touchscreen, and the owner’s smartphone sits in a cradle at the right-hand side of the steering yoke.
Fortunately this bizarre, computer-operated vision of driving is merely a concept car. The Toyota Smart Insect will be shown all this week at the CEATEC Japan electronics trade show.