Toyota’s Concept-i artificial intelligence car is scheduled to go active in 2020

Sep 02, 2019

Toyota will begin integrating early versions of its AI technology into its cars from 2020 onward. The Japanese automaker’s Concept-i, previewed in 2017 at the CES, and recently shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, demonstrates how the systems work. The car will be present, but not operational, at the 2020 Summer Olympic games in Tokyo.   

By John Coulter, Current EV CMO   

What will AI cars look like and how will they function? The designers at Toyota’s Caltry advanced development center in Newport Beach, California have spent lots of time researching these questions and developing a prototype that provides answers about the future of autonomous driving.   

Toyota believes their future vehicles should make driving a “warm and friendly” experience and turn your car into a “third space” where you spend extended time periods away from your home or office. Their vision of future mobility begins with “Yui,” which they envision as similar to Siri or Alexa but embedded in your car’s architecture.   

Yui appears on exterior door panels to greet the car’s driver and passengers as they approach. The rear of the vehicle displays messages to other cars and drivers signaling a turning intent or warning of potential hazards. And the front of the vehicle communicates whether the Concept-i is in auto mode or manual drive.   

Think of Yui as a personal driving assistant; an on-demand chauffeur; travel guide, spa attendant and copilot who builds a personal relationship with you and remembers your in-car preferences and habits. Using the car’s app on a tablet, you inform Yui – voiced by a male assistant – a few things about yourself by answering a short questionnaire. In the future, the app will access social networks – your Facebook page, for instance – to obtain social cues in order to know you more organically. During operation, you can ask Yui simple questions, about the weather for instance, which extend beyond its car operational intelligence, and it will answer. Via biometric sensors throughout the car, Concept-i can detect what you’re feeling. If it thinks you’re sad, it can recommend taking over the driving duties, so you can relax and chill out.   

Says Toyota: “The forward-thinking minds at our Calty Design Research center have dreamed up a concept of automotive UX that is intelligent, friendly and helpful. Intelligent cars that continually learn, and, in turn, keep getting smarter. Brilliant cars that get to know you and your needs, and then start to anticipate them for you. A bond between car, driver and society that, like any great relationship, revolves around trust and loyalty. Helping to bring this vision to life is Yui. Yui is a liaison between you, your passengers and your car. More pal than interface, Yui, in tandem with AI, anticipates your needs and informs the car so that Concept-i can consider and execute that next action accordingly.”   

When you switch from manual to self-driving, which is primarily on freeways, the dashboard changes colors and displays a soft pulsating color which Toyota says is designed to “help trigger your body to enter relaxation mode.” Yui will give you a lower back massage via the driver’s seat and project entertainment media for you to enjoy during the drive. When you exit the highway, Yui will return control to the driver. The AI can help you pick out tourist places or restaurants to visit, and at the end of the drive, he’ll show you an emotional map of your ride, based on the facial expressions he’s identified as being the happiest or most expressive. Toyota says it wants to “crowdsource” this data and offer navigation options for other Concept-i drivers to provide the fastest and happiest routes.   

Where Toyota sees Yui adding value is in building a unique relationship with its driver. Yui is designed to live in the cloud, and to transfer from vehicle to vehicle as an owner buys new cars (or uses car-sharing services). A demo video of Yui from Toyota envisions a man forming a 20-year bond with his own Yui assistant, with the AI knowing about his family, interests and personality very deeply.   

As of today, Toyota’s Concept-i is totally electric and obtains a 186-mile range from a single charge. When it reaches production in a year or two, it may have more. The first wave of Toyota production EVs will be sold in the Chinese market; the automaker hasn’t said when Yui will set foot on the American or European continents.   

From the Toyota website: “Concept-i and its forward-thinking UX hold a mirror up to a future that is warm, friendly, engaging and, most of all—fun. Without further ado, meet Concept-i.”   At Current EV, we’re all hoping that happens sooner rather than later.    


The Concept-I website: