Toyota's New 'Concept-i' Makes Self-Driving Cars Totally Customized

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May. 23 2019, Updated 10:40 a.m. ET

Toyota will be debuting a new concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of October. The new vehicle line is “Concept-i” and the artificial intelligence inside of them is expected to take things a step further in autonomous vehicles. With it, the driver will be able to interact with the vehicle while the AI learns more about its driver.

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At the moment, focus is on making self-driving vehicles 100 percent safe. Understandably, skeptics are struggling to understand how a vehicle will be able to make all the decisions that we can in a moment's notice. For example, a GPS system won’t be able to guide cars in every area, and we need to be certain that self-driving cars won’t pose a hazard for other drivers or pedestrians on the road.

In similar form to having these cars talk to each other in order to understand their surroundings, Toyota is attempting to add an AI called “Yui” to improve the experience. Yui would feature technology that learns from its drivers and attempts to cater to them. Essentially, each driver would have a slightly different experience in the vehicle.

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Toyota simplifies the Concept-i features to three words: learn, protect, and inspire. Yui will read into how the driver is feeling based on their expressions and what they say. It will also adapt news topics or media preferences based on your social media activity, where you’re located, and keywords from conversations in the car.

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To protect both drivers and pedestrians, Yui will also adapt the experience to the driver’s mood. If they’re stressed or the alert level isn’t as high as usual, the car will become more autonomous. The goal is to provide less stress on a commute or to keep others safe when a driver feels drowsy. 

In an effort to inspire, the Concept-i will provide a very unique feature -- changing up routes for a new driving experience. The car will pair up a driver’s emotion based on what routes they take, and it’ll attempt to provide the best path or an alternative way based on others that have taken it. Yui will also provide other similar topics when conversing with the driver.

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Another way the vehicle line plans to be different is the inclusion for everybody, and Toyota highlights wheelchair accessibility with the Concept-i RIDE. This has a unique layout with a joystick instead of traditional steering wheels, gas, and brake pedals. The Concept-i WALK is a mobility vehicle that features three wheels that will safely fit in any walking area and it’s easy to steer. Both of these concepts will feature the same AI used in the standard car.

Toyota explains in their press release that the “Concept-i series aims to become a "beloved car" of a new era guided by the concept of "more than a machine, a partner" to better understand the driver and grow together with the driver as an irreplaceable partner.” It’ll feature more testing in Japan by 2020. There’s certainly a lot of intrigue in the unique self-driving vehicle line, and we’ll see what it looks like at the Tokyo Motor Show later in October.

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