There’s nothing like a couple of hours stuck in traffic or frustrated by erratic public transport to convince even the sceptical that autonomous, self-driven cars would be a desirable alternative.
Freedom from the cares of driving as well as the freedom to go where and when you want… surely that’s a dream come true? Actually, driving as we know it can be fun, says Toyota. Two concept vehicles premiered at the Tokyo show reflect a vision of a future mobility society that values the joy of driving. This should raise a few eyebrows among those who believe that Toyota is all about bland personal transport for the masses: the company says the vehicles embody its efforts to contribute positively to society while creating ever-better cars that exceed expectations.
Short for Fuel Cell Vehicle, this concept is Toyota’s latest hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle. And in case you think it sounds like another car for our distant tomorrows, consider this: it has a driving range and refueling time equivalent to a conventional car’s. It is also said to point to a production vehicle Toyota plans to launch around 2015.
Capable of seating up to four, the FCV can drive 500 km and can be refueled in as little as three minutes. Its drive train is based on a proprietary lightweight fuel-cell stack and two 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tanks.
The fuel-cell stack has a power density of 3 kW per litre, more than twice that of Toyota’s previous development vehicle. Its output is at least 100 kW; using a high-efficiency boost converter and increasing the voltage has made it possible to improve efficiency and cut costs by reducing the motor size and the number of fuel cells.
This zero-emissions vehicle is more than just transport, too: fully fueled, it can provide enough electricity to meet the daily needs of an average Japanese house, said to be 10 kWh, for more than a week.
My car, my steed? Well, yes: Fun Vehicle 2, says Toyota, “is designed to create a more intimate relationship between vehicle and driver – similar to the trust and understanding that might exist between a rider and their horse.”
And you can even change horses in mid-stream, apparently: body colour and exterior display can be changed at will.
There is actually some kind of logic to Toyota’s suggestion. The FV2 doesn’t use a steering wheel: instead, the driver shifts his body weight to operate the vehicle. At the same time, smart transport informatics collate and process safety information, including advanced warnings about vehicles in blind spots at intersections.
The FV2 uses voice and image recognition to determine the driver’s mood. Like an Internet browser, it can make targeted suggestions to the user. In a driving context, that means it can suggest destinations and driving skill information by trawling through its accumulated driving history.
An augmented reality display on the windscreen supplements sensory information from the user’s environment with computer-generated data. As part of the FV2, a smartphone app enables users to experience the mobility of the future envisaged by this concept.