Can cars still be fun after automated driving becomes the norm?
Toyota thinks so.
The Japanese automaker makes an intriguing argument, in the form of the FV2 concept car that is generating a lot of buzz with its world debut at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.
The FV2—the name is short for “Fun Vehicle 2”—aims to create a physical and emotional connection between man and machine. It does this in part by relying on the driver’s body movements to determine which direction to go and using voice and facial cues to sense the driver’s mood. (And like a giant mood ring, the FV2 can then change its exterior color accordingly, too.)
These particular functions are not as wildly futuristic as they sound, given the technology Toyota is developing today.
Nonetheless, the Toyota FV2 concept car sure does look futuristic, so much so that you might be tempted to dismiss it as purely science fiction. In fact, it hardly looks (or functions) much like a car at all.
The FV2 is like a cross between a Light Cycle from the movie “Tron” and a skateboard. It fits only one person who operates the vehicle while standing or sitting. Rather than doors, the FV2 has a canopy top that opens like a clamshell. If the driver stands, the transparent canopy remains open and positioned to the front like a windshield. If the driver sits, the canopy comes down overhead.
The concept car has no steering wheel, no gas pedal and no brake. Instead, the FV2 responds to a shift in body weight, so you have to lean in whatever direction you want to go. Toyota likens this type of “steering” to that of a Segway.
The company also developed its own version of the Segway called the Winglet, which it demonstrated to the media prior to the Tokyo Motor Show press days. The Winglet shows Toyota is already capable of producing at least some of the technology previewed on the FV2, considering that the personal mobility device relies on a shift in body weight to determine which direction to go.
Though the FV2 on display at the Tokyo Motor Show is an electric vehicle, Toyota says the powertrain can be adapted to whatever environmentally friendly technology becomes mainstream. So the concept car could evolve into a PHV, if plug-in hybrid vehicles get more traction, or an FCV, if fuel-cell vehicles take off. Or it could remain an EV as it is now.
An augmented reality screen on the windshield can report on traffic conditions and weather, drawing information from other connected cars. The FV2 is, after all, designed for an era of autonomous driving.
The four wheels on the FV2 are arranged in a diamond shape, with one at the front, one at the back, and one to each side of the driver. The side wheels are illuminated similar to the ones on the Light Cycles in “Tron,” and the colors can be changed at will.
The FV2’s exterior color also can be changed at will, which Toyota says makes for “a more intimate relationship” with the driver.