TOKYO -- Tokyoites will get a chance to zip around town on Toyota Motor Corp.'s three-wheeled electric car-cum-motorbike from Friday, in a trial aimed at crafting a global business model to reduce gridlock and pollution.
The world's top-selling automaker will partner with Japanese car-sharing service operator Park24 for a six-month experiment leasing the i-Road concept vehicle, with a view to setting up a green car-sharing business akin to Daimler AG's car2go service.
The pint-sized i-Road has two front wheels that move up and down independently of each other, allowing it to lean like a motorcycle but retain the stability of a car. Toyota has not yet decided whether to mass-produce it.
"Our concept was to offer something that's both fun and convenient for city driving," i-Road chief engineer Akihiro Yanaka told Reuters.
Devising smarter ways to get around -- known in the industry as "smart mobility" -- looks set to become a new battleground for automakers as urbanization grows, pollution worsens, and more cars clog up cities in emerging markets.
Germany's Daimler has taken the lead with car2go, where its 1 million-plus members in 30 European and North American cities use a mobile app to reserve the tiny Smart Fortwo car, many of which are zero-emission. Drivers pay by the minute and can drop the car off at various spots around town.
Ford Motor Co. in January introduced the Ford Smart Mobility initiative that would involve various types of trials around the world including a car-sharing service in London.