Maker Faires are not only places for do-it-yourselfers, innovators and inventors to share their latest and greatest creations with each other, but are also hugely popular with the general public. The Bay Area Maker Faire a few months back, for example, attracted 1,100 exhibitors and 130,000 visitors. Now Toyota is looking to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the Maker movement with a new Urban Utility concept vehicle called the U2.
Unveiled at a private event in San Francisco, the Urban Utility concept vehicle (U2) is about the size of a compact car but boasts the functionality of a compact truck. It was developed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research division out of Newport Beach in California and is based upon an open architecture concept.
The oddly-shaped/proportioned U2 looks to have borrowed design influences from a food truck, commercial van, Nissan Pathfinder and a Honda Element. Aside from the unconventional design aspects, this versatile concept does have some interesting multi-tasking tricks up its sleeve.
According to Toyota, the U2 is designed to "reflect the lifestyle and needs of the entrepreneurial, urban driver." Retractable roof panels slide forward, allowing access to the open air or storage height to be increased. And like a food truck, the rear panel windows can pivot up and out of the way. The tailgate borrows from a wheelchair access vehicles by folding down, creating a ramp where bikes can be transported or stored.
Inside, the U2 puts on an impressive show where everything appears to have multiple purposes and functionality. The customizable interior has been configured by Calty to meet the needs of both inner city entrepreneurs and outdoor types who need to transport gear and equipment.
A retractable utility bar on the passenger side has the flexibility to support a desk, laptop or grocery bag hooks. Space can be increased further by removing the passenger seat altogether. A configurable rail system in the rear can be set up to hold bikes, baskets, etc. while the rear seat can be folded up and out of the way.
The driver’s area features a minimalist digital dashboard and a shifter design that looks like a containment tube from any number of sci-fi movies. But according to Calty, the odd shifter actually features an intuitive switch to assist with gear selections.
"As more products are developed expressly to appeal to Makers and their deep appreciation of design esthetic combined with open architecture and practical utility, we expect to see more trusted brands like Toyota take an unconventional approach to not only product development but their marketing and launch strategies," said Sherry Huss, VP and co-founder of Maker Faire. "Leveraging the growing Maker movement and Makers’ broad sphere of influence can impact the success of consumer brands and future products."
Toyota’s Urban Utility concept vehicle will make its first public appearance on September 20 at the World Maker Faire in New York.