Toyota's i-unit Personal Mobility Concept
By Gizmag Team
December 4, 2004
A further evolution of the Toyota Personal Mobility (PM-01) concept called the "i-unit" is being featured at the Toyota Group Pavilion at EXPO 2005 in Aichi, Japan. Toyota is launching the "i-unit" and other concept vehicles and helper robots with a "Mobility Performance Show" to dramatise the future of mobile technology and its potential role in society under the theme of "the dreams, pleasure and excitement of mobility in the 21st century."
The "i-unit" is a "personal mobility" concept vehicle based on the revolutionary PM-01 announced by Toyota in 2003 - a cross between a partially enclosed motorcycle, an open wheel racer and a speedy vehicular exoskeleton for single person transport. Specially created for the launch of EXPO 2005 to reflect the environmental theme, the open "i-unit" design is inspired by the leaf that "converts sunlight into life energy, seeks to express the power of the unknown, the logic of living things and the simple beauty of waste-free functionality." The body is built using environmentally friendly plant-based materials such as kenaf.
Like the PM-01, the "i-unit" offers personal mobility in an ultra-compact size with variable positioning, enabling the passenger to move among other people in an upright position in low speed mode, and a low center of gravity that ensures stable handling when the vehicles recline in high speed mode. Drive-by-wire technology and intuitive handling enable the passenger to manoeuvre on the-spot turns and drive at high speed at will. A driver support information system uses sound, light and vibration to facilitate interactive communication.
Like the PM-01, the one-seat design focuses on interactive communication and is geared towards maintaining contact with the outside world and other PMs. Each "i-unit" has a profile and can identify other "i-units" through these visual labels and match profiles, alert you to information you might find relevant or detect "packets" of data left behind by others.
The driver support system features Intelligent Transport System (ITS) technology, which Toyota hopes to utilise for an accident-free society. The system permits efficient and safe autopilot driving in specially equipped lanes.
The "i-unit" also has a personalised recognition system can provide information and music, and body color can be customised according to the individual's preferences and emotions.
Twelve single passenger "i-unit" concept vehicles and a mountable, walking "i-foot" robot join with dancers in a performance that introduces the concepts of "The Wonders of Living and Moving Freely" and "The New Relationship Between People and Vehicles" at EXPO 2005 in Aichi.
Visitors are treated to choreographed automatic driving and formation driving executed by the "i-unit" vehicles and a performance by an "i-foot" robot. These performances will highlight "Harmony with Society" - a society free of traffic accidents and traffic jams, and in which the elderly and those with disabilities can achieve independent mobility - in addition to future technologies that meet individuals' particular needs, and possibilities for future vehicles.
Through the expanded development of the driving control technologies for automobiles, Toyota has also developed new stabilising technologies for robots. Small, lightweight and low-cost high-precision-sensors based upon automotive sensor technology are used as an attitude sensor that detects tilting with these new generation "partner robots" that are also part of the performance at EXPO 2005.
The helper robots will demonstrate advanced mobility, walking on two legs similar to a person and playing musical instruments including the trumpet. Toyota developed "artificial lips" that move with the same finesse as human lips, which, together with the robots` hands, enable the robots to play trumpets like humans do. The helper robots are designed to function as personal assistants for humans as the company continues its expansion into the robotics market.
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