The buzz from Tokyo: Toyota's brainy new Insect
Toyota wants to generate some buzz with its latest concept vehicle, a tiny one-seat electric car called the Smart Insect. The gull-winged ride is supposed to embody all that is next-generation about onboard information technology.
Toyota showed the flea-sized four-wheeler at the CEATEC electronics trade show last week outside Tokyo. Among its features:
Facial recognition technology that authenticates the vehicle's registered driver to clear the car for driving.
Motion detectors that enable drivers to operate functions with gestures, such as opening doors with a wave of the hand.
A "virtual agent" that learns to predict the driver's behavior and programs settings for such things as vehicle navigation, fog lights and the audio system.
Smartphone content that can be accessed with voice commands.
Locks and climate control that can be operated remotely through cloud computing from a person's home.
Early versions of some of these technologies already are on the market -- and judging by their performance so far, perhaps Insect is a good choice of names: These new systems often are full of bugs.
Toyota, of course, has a different explanation for the name. "Insect," it says, 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."