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Toyota's NS4 concept projects the hybrid car three years hence


January 12, 2012

Toyota's NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid concept that was unveiled in Detroit this week

Toyota's NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid concept that was unveiled in Detroit this week

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Toyota's NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid concept that was unveiled this week at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit is the brainchild of Toyota engineers who were given the task of designing a new mid-size concept for potential launch in markets worldwide by 2015. While the NS4 concept is a dedicated plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), Toyota says it isn't part of its Prius family, with a next-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive plug-in system that is not only smaller and lighter, but is also more fuel efficient, boasts better acceleration and a longer all-electric range than the current system.


Claiming that connected vehicles are the third fastest growing technological device behind smartphones and tablets, Toyota has developed the NS4 concept with a heavy focus on connectivity. Its Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is built around a multi-touch screen that takes its lead in the look and usability departments from a smartphone and acts as a hub for displaying information and controlling the car's multimedia, air conditioning, battery-charge and navigation functions. Toyota says the HMI system is also able to learn driver preferences and habits and anticipate driver responses in certain situations.


The NS4 concept also sees the introduction of a number of new safety features. A next-generation Pre-Collision System (PCS) is designed to predict collisions before they occur and help avoid them. It uses millimeter-wave radar and front-mounted stereo cameras to detect and react to lane departure, pedestrians and other vehicles, with near-infrared beams to enhance performance at night. When the system detects an imminent collision, the brake assist system is placed in standby mode and the driver is warned by a buzzer and warning light. If the system determines that the collision is unavoidable, it will apply the brakes and automatically tighten the front seatbelts.

For those times when a pedestrian collision can't be avoided, the car features a pop-up hood structure that automatically raises the rear of the hood within certain speed ranges to increase the space underneath and reduce the chance of the pedestrian sustaining head injuries. Toyota says it has tested this system using both conventional crash-test dummies and virtual models.

With interior and exterior rear view cameras replacing mirrors, a dedicated dashboard-mounted screen positioned above the navigation display is used to display a panoramic rear view image that is wider than that possible with conventional rear view mirrors. The rear view panoramic camera view also works in conjunction with a sub-millimeter wave radar in the Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system to detect a vehicle in an adjacent lane.

Meanwhile, Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) headlights use a camera mounted behind the front grille and partial shielding inside the headlights to allow drivers to maintain near-high beam illumination without producing vision-impairing glare to oncoming drivers.

Glass tech

Toyota's engineers have also given the NS4 concept's windshield and side and rear windows a technological makeover with the a application of anti-fog film, a high ultraviolet absorbing inner layer that removes 99 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays, and an anti-solar film with radio-wave transparency that reduces the interior temperature without impacting mobile electronic device wireless reception. The windscreen and windows, along with the roof solar panel, have also been given a hydrophobic coating to help repel raindrops and improve visibility.

While Toyota's Plug-In Hybrid of 2015 will undoubtedly look different than the concept currently on display in Detroit, it's likely that some, if not most, of the connectivity and safety features found on the NS4 concept will appear in such a car by that time.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Is it just me or does that look a lot like the Tesla S.


Looks more like a two-door NSX hybrid.

The \'NS\' must be a Japanese acronym for something we don\'t understand.

Form-follows-function. There are only so many variations for a four-wheel, tear-drop-shape, aerodynamic body.


What? A concept car that is not ungainly and bloated?! Doth mine eyes deceive me? Only yesterday I commented on the spectacularly grotesque Chrysler Whatever but now here comes Toyota to make me eat my words. Don\'t change a thing, it\'s fabulous!


The hood popping up in an accident seems more harmful that good. It limits vision and while one pedestrian may benefit you may hit a dozen you would not have hit at all. Also, if it pops up the pedestrian may be quick enough to dodge you but with the hood up you try to dodge the same way and hit them because you can\'t see which way they went.

And what about people throwing themselves at the car so it opens and then taking parts or disabling the vehicle?

I think they need to go back to the drawing board on that.

Brighter head lights? Headlights are already way too bright. Protection...I don\'t buy it.

The rest? Well, seems pretty impressive. We need more cars with gull-wings though ;)

Hybrids need smother rides and automatic seats. Those are simple things compared to getting more range and efficiency.



You misunderstand again. I\'m sure the hood opens from the front, like most cars. The rear has short arms to raise the hinges when necessary. Also, the hood doesn\'t pop up that far, only a few inches. The driver\'s vision isn\'t impeded much. The goal is to keep a pedestrian\'s head from denting the hood and coming to a hard stop against the engine block. Also, note the critical words, \"within certain speed ranges.\" There\'s no reason for the hood to pop up if you jump at the car while it\'s at a dead stop. I suspect Toyota engineers aren\'t as dumb as you think, nor the engineers at other car companies who are working on similar hood lift systems. Just how much are YOU being paid to design cars right now?

And where are you getting this \"brighter headlights\" from? All it says is they\'re managing to keep it near high beam levels while reducing glare. It doesn\'t say anything about making them brighter than existing headlights. Besides which, \"way too bright\" is your opinion. In fact, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set a limit decades ago on maximum brightness for headlights installed by automobile manufacturers. Do you really think Toyota would design cars that would be illegal and thus banned for sale in the US?


Popping hood is really nice idea, if it works like an airbag ( pops up and after the hit it slowly moves back in the place ) it should work really nice. Maybe make the hood out of \"plastic\" or some other material that is softer than steel and it would be like a diving in to the bed ;-)

František Okáník
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