CES 2017: Car as Close Companion

Toyota's Concept-i features an "inside-out" design that attempts to better bond driver and vehicle.

Let’s face it. For you (and everybody else), it’s all about you, you—and by the way, you. You know, me, the big "I."

The Concept-i's windshield incorporates a 600-mm-wide, full-color HUD that allows the interior to be greatly simplified.

That is, perhaps unless you have a mini-you/mini-me along for the ride, a close clone companion to help you make it safely and happily down the road of life.

Almost any surface inside or outside of the Concept-i can serve as an information display or driver's signal.

Enter Yui (pronounced ‘you-ee’), Toyota’s new personal assistant in the automaker’s Concept-i vehicle just unveiled at CES 2017. Yui is a dashboard-dwelling, AI-based drivers’ aide whose aim is to create a closer relationship between you and your car. Yui, your devoted virtual-twin buddy and clever little helper, watches your every move like your dog to better know you and predict your preferences. And maybe even extend you emotionally into the vehicle you control, even if you usually let Yui and Concept-i do the driving.

Ian Cartabiano, studio chief designer at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, led the team responsible for the Concept-i vehicle.

Yui is Toyota’s first smart ambassador to a new kind of personalized, "relationship-based" driving environment that Toyota hopes can augment the user experience in its future cars. The Concept-I designers at Calty Design Research in California exploited everything from floor lighting cues to haptic feedback to exterior text displays and a giant windshield head-up display to help cultivate this link.

“We’ve designed a lot of concept cars,” observed chief designer Ian Cartabiano, “but this is our first ‘philosophical’ design in a while.” The Concept-i is designed, he continued, “from inside out to foster a warm and friendly user experience while presenting a futuristic vision of 2030. The idea is to explore how we might most harmoniously connect the driver and car to society, and create a bond strong enough to help reignite a love for cars in the future.

The vehicle’s “inside-out” design attempts to wrap the occupants in an ubiquitous intuitive interface that helps make communications easy—because almost every surface can double as an information display.

Unlike some other robo-car designs, the steering wheel of the Concept-i doesn't retract, so the driver can always take control.
Hidden displays on the exterior of Toyota's Concept-i can print text messages and warnings to pedestrians.

Steadily learning your likes, dislikes, and interests as it monitors your actions and digital correspondence, Yui can offer informed suggestions regarding routes or destinations and strives to keep you safe and healthy. For example, like any loyal wingman, it might suggest that you relinquish the wheel to autodrive after it observes you exhibiting bio-signs of agitation, fatigue, or even over-consumption of alcohol.