DETROIT -- Toyota views hybrids as a core segment of the future vehicle market, a top Toyota Motor Corp. executive told the 2007 SAE World Congress here today.
"Today's engineers are diligently working with a variety of fuel and technical innovations. And I believe hybrid technology will continue to evolve as a core technology. This will serve to create the ultimate car that is kind to us," Yasuhiko Ichihashi, Toyota's managing officer, said in keynote remarks.
Ichihashi also is executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America and president of the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ichihashi, who is general chairman of the SAE event this year, urged engineers to work to maximize progress toward dream vehicles for customers, using the cultural example of "ideal transportation" found in folk tales. The Toyota leader called up images of flying carpets and magic brooms.
"What is an ideal vehicle?" he asked. "It takes you wherever you want to go. It is also fully automated and moves according to the driver's thoughts. In addition, it has great safety features, which avoid collisions."
He said real-world cars need to be closer to the dream-world ideal, with increased effort to maximize the things people like about transportation, including fun and freedom. But Ichihashi also said it was engineers' responsibility to "zeronise" the bad parts of transportation. That was a term he used to discuss reducing pollution, traffic deaths and road congestion.
"Technical innovations are contributing to the improvement of traffic safety. However, we can achieve even higher goals with a total approach to safety by including the three components together - driver, vehicle, and traffic environment," he said.
When driving has advanced toward those goals, new forms of transportation such as a tiny three-wheeled "personal mobility vehicle" prototype Toyota showed at its SAE event display may become possible, Ichihashi said. New electronic and engineering interaction could make far-future vehicles, he said.
"We all know there are still many challenges facing us today," Ichihashi said. "We are gathered together as engineers to consider ways we can proactively address challenges in front of us."
Tim Moran is a Detroit-area freelance writer. You may e-mail him at [email protected]