"Smart INSECT": Toyota's cloud-enabled, single-passenger electric vehicle
Automakers have been toying with the idea of single passenger vehicles in an attempt to reduce emissions in urban centers, and Toyota's Coms is one such example. The company is showing off a new concept version based on this ultra-compact, single passenger electric vehicle dubbed the "Smart INSECT" at CEATEC JAPAN 2012 this week. Short for "information network social electric city transporter," it would connect the home, vehicle, and people in new ways through Toyota's cloud services.
The Smart INSECT's cabin features flashy gull-wing doors, and incorporates new features like face and voice recognition. Motion sensors and cameras recognize pre-registered drivers as they approach, and will greet him or her with blinking lights, sounds, and messages from the instrument panel. It also anticipates the driver's intentions by tracking body movements, such as opening doors automatically when the driver reaches for them.
The interior features a large display above the steering wheel, which provides a detailed GPS navigation system. This is connected to the cloud-based Toyota Smart Center, which hosts a virtual agent that can provide navigation instructions via voice command.
As user data accumulates in the cloud, the system learns the driver's preferences and common destinations, such as "home" or "office." It could also make suggestions – from restaurants to playlists – based on personal tastes, and allow owners to lock up their house or activate the home's air conditioner on the way there.
The Smart Insect is just a concept for now, but the regular Coms gives us an idea of its capabilities. Priced at approximately US$10,000, it can achieve a top speed of 37.5 mph (60 km/h) and has a range of about 31 miles (50 km). Toyota says it's sold around a thousand of them so far, but it seems we'll have to wait until a breakthrough in battery technology before vehicles like this become practical outside of Japan's dense urban centers.