Toyota is showcasing a new single person electric vehicle at CEATEC 2012 that envisions a future of small urban smart cars. It'ss laden with technology to adapt to and aid the user, as well as keep them connected. Meet the, um, Smart INSECT.
Looking at the wee little vehicle, complete with gull-wing doors that look like wings on a ladybug, you'd think it's creatively and appropriately named. According to Toyota it's not due to its appearance, but about the function of the car. INSECT is an acronym for "Information Network, Social Electricity City Transporter."
That acronym is a lot to live up to. So what does the car have to deliver? Starting from the outside, it has a front mounted Microsoft Kinect to recognize the face and body shape of the registered driver as they approach. Courtesy of a speaker mounted on the hood and "dialogue monitors" on the front and back, the car also has voice recognition and can greet drivers as they approach. Sensors help analyze the driver's hand and anticipates when the want to enter, and assists in opening the door.
The inside is also a techie haven. There's a wireless charging pad and a dash monitor that connects with the drivers' smartphone. A touch of a button calls the Toyota Smart Center where a virtual agent interacts with the driver by setting the destination and navigation system, anticipating and activating various functions such as the lights, audio and entertainment systems.
As if the car that does everything for you wouldn't be enough, it also offers an app that could monitor and adjust things in your house such as lighting and air-conditioning and the like. The only thing that seems to be missing is its ability to drive itself.
With so much convenience built into the car it's easy to forget it's an electric vehicle that will charge via a standard 100-volt AC outlet. Speeds will likely be on the lower side with a range of 30 miles. That seems about right for urban use.
Of course it is just a concept car, but many of the features it includes are already operation in some form or another on other production vehicles, so perhaps all the buzz about the INSECT could mean this futuristic car might not be so far off from reality.