Barcelona – The good news: Before AI replaces us, it's going to seriously improve our lives. Take, for example, the Toyota WE student project. WE is a proposal for a tech platform underlying the Toyota ME and Toyota US, two highly personalisable, more-than-mobility vehicles for use by people with functional diversity to navigate the home or the city, respectively.
Equipped with AI, they could make getting around easier for a broad range of users by addressing not just transportation, but functional, emotional and sensory needs too. The idea is that the product would adapt to the user, not the other way around, which means it may raise the bar on tomorrow's mobility design.
After Japanese automaker Toyota threw down the gauntlet with its Mobility Unlimited Challenge, the platform and its two systems were developed as concepts by a multidisciplinary team of transport, graphic and product design students and faculty from IED Barcelona University, materials experts, sociologists, psychologists and economists from tech development institute LEITAT, and Singular Synergy Foundation, which promotes solutions for people with functional diversity.
A 360° mobility solution, the Toyota ME would enable users to move freely around the home, not because it would make them drivers of a vehicle, but because it is designed to serve as an extension of their bodies. The system is made-to-measure, according to each person's dimensions, conditions and preferences and, with the support of an app, can memorise the layout of the home to move independently through each room. As a smart device, it can be guided by body sensors that discern pressure and a gyroscope that responds to the hands via a joystick or the app. It can even simulate walking when the user is seated and convert to a bed-like position to raise users from horizontal.
The Toyota US would export the platform from the domestic setting to the urban setting, ready to be plugged into any Smart City (data collection and supply) system. Its design was the result of extensive analysis of urban behaviours and is intended to bridge the divide between different tribes of people, with or without functional diversity. The US system runs on the same app as the ME (to which it may or may not be linked) and could be programmed to the user's preferred speed and dynamics. Units could even travel together by syncing up their final destination.
The team engineered the US with a smart, cushy suspension system and made it compatible with ancillary systems like drone transport, multipurpose screens, sensors for autonomous driving and signalling LEDs. Units would be parked and available at various stations around the city, which could make them a game-changer not just in in terms of increasing the autonomy of individual users, but in terms of altering our notions around city transport.