Will Toyota's new Insect generate buzz or be full of bugs?

Toyota's Smart Insect concept offers motion detectors that allow drivers to operate functions with gestures, such as opening doors with a wave of the hand.
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TOKYO -- Toyota wants to generate some buzz with its latest concept vehicle, a micro electric car called the Smart Insect.

The one-seat, gull-winged ride is supposed to embody all that is next-generation about on-board information technology.

It is packed with motion sensors, voice and behavior recognition software and cloud-based communication systems.

Toyota Motor Corp. will show the flea-sized four-wheeler at the CEATEC electronics trade show starting Oct. 2 outside Tokyo.

Among the Insect's features:

• Facial recognition technology that authenticates the vehicle's registered driver to clear the car for driving.

• Motion detectors that allow drivers to operate functions with gestures, such as opening doors with a wave of the hand.

• A so-called "virtual agent" that learns to predict the driver's behavior and preprograms settings for such things as vehicle navigation, fog lights and the audio system.

• Smart-phone content that can be accessed via voice commands

• Car locks and climate control that can be operated remotely through cloud computing from a person's home.

Early-generation versions of some of these technologies are already being offered on the market. And judging by their performance so far, perhaps Insect is a good choice of names:

These new systems are often full of bugs.

Toyota, of course, has a different explanation for the name.

Insect is an acronym for "information network social electric city transporter." And Toyota says the moniker aims to "convey an image of a small insect that flies around on large wings, in the same way as the vehicle freely navigates through and uses an information network."

That too is not very reassuring.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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