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.
ConnectivityClaiming 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.
SafetyThe 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 techToyota'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.