Automakers like Suzuki already have us anticipating a Tokyo Motor Show full of wonderfully weird and eccentric little concept cars. But one of the show's weirdest will come from a less familiar industry player. Rubber, plastics and LED specialist Toyoda Gosei will show the Flesby II, a turtle-like concept that uses a creative exterior shell to protect pedestrians, communicate with other road users and change shapes.
The new Flesby II is a follow-up to the original Flesby concept car, which Toyoda Gosei showed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. That car provided pedestrian protection in the form of an inflatable exterior built to absorb impacts.
The Flesby II has much the same inspiration as the original, but it's been restyled (if you can call multiple blobs slapped together styling) and has a bit more going on. The Flesby II absorbs impacts with its soft exterior and uses "e-rubber" to change shapes. Toyoda Gosei doesn't explain exactly how it imagines that shape-shifting working on the car, freeing us to imagine the bulbous, little commuter rapidly morphing into a sleeker, tauter sports car the minute the speedometer fires above 40 mph (64 km/h) or so.
E-rubber may sound like a fantasy, imagined for a car from the year 2035+, but it's actually something that Toyoda Gosei has been developing since 2007. The soft, lightweight smart polymer device, a sandwich construction of elastic electrodes and a dielectric center, can expand and contract with the introduction of electricity. The company believes it could find use in a variety of applications, including tactile sensors and actuators to replace electromagnetic motors.
Unfortunately, nothing we're seeing in the company's description makes us believe that e-rubber will be shape-shifting Flesby-like urban cars into sexy sports cars anytime soon.
Like its predecessor, the Flesby II also communicates with other drivers and road users using integrated LED lights. LED lighting continues inside, shown on a separate cockpit model. Toyoda Gosei's automotive materials expertise is also on display around this interior, where soft materials enhance passenger comfort.
The Flesby II will feature as one of many futuristic concept cars coming to the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens up to the media on October 25. Stay tuned for more news from the show.
Source: Toyoda Gosei