Toyota’s Concept-i is a driverless car that doesn’t forget the driver

Nor does it forget everyone around the driver

At the Las Vegas Auto Sho – err, CES 2017 – Toyota has unveiled a concept for a driverless car that makes a point of considering the driver (and those around him or her): the Concept-i. 

Of course, we’ll likely never see the Concept-i on the dealer’s lot as you see it here, but it’s about the dream, not the reality. And, Toyota’s dream is for driverless cars to not only continue to support and improve the driving experience, but to learn about you and your driving habits using artificial intelligence (AI).

Furthermore, the Concept-i is about everyone else within the vicinity of the vehicle, i.e. pedestrians and fellow drivers.

Driverless shouldn’t mean ‘without driver’

The Concept-i, unlike some driverless concepts, doesn’t throw away the steering wheel or upend the interior design completely. That’s likely in no small part because Toyota tells us that not only has it designed this car with three key disciplines across three teams, but it has crafted the car from the inside out where most cars are designed outside-in.

Toyota’s CALTY Design Research center in Newport Beach, California helped the firm’s Japanese designers shape the frame of the vehicle. Meanwhile, Toyota’s Innovation Hub in San Francisco, California created the Concept-i’s AI and interior user interface known as “Yui”. And finally, Toyota partnered up with MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts to help design the car’s many sensors.

The end result is a vehicle that looks every part Minority Report but is something you could still actually drive if you wanted.

Yui wants to be the ultimate in-car GUI

The car’s AI and interface, Yui, is said to learn from your mannerisms and habits in addition to your voice profile to not only do things when you ask, but offer to do them before you ask. 

For instance, we were foretold a scenario by Toyota designers in which Yui would be able to tell whether you’re too tired to drive and offer to take the wheel on the last legs of the long road-trip. It’s like your personal car and a Lyft in one.

Yui communicates via lights and sounds both inside and outside the vehicle, eschewing the traditional center console between the two front seats and the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. These lights determine whether the Concept-i is in manual or driverless mode to both the driver and those immediately outside the car as well as alert drivers behind you to upcoming potential hazards. Yui will even greet you as you approach the car to get in.

The Concept-i doesn’t have a release date or a price, because it’s just that: a concept. Toyota has a somewhat conservative idea for the future of autonomous vehicles (badass scissor doors aside). But, perhaps that’s what we need to get the ball rolling on driverless cars landing in the dealerships faster?

New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2017 straight from Las Vegas, the greatest gadget show on Earth.