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Tokyo show: Toyota details EV, autonomous plans

Top tiara: The redesigned Toyota Crown concept shown in Tokyo heralds the Japanese car-maker’s next step with connected technology, which in turn is a precursor to more advanced driverless technology coming early next decade.

Toyota to launch first full-electric car and driverless technology early next decade


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25 Oct 2017

TOYOTA will launch its first electric vehicle in partnership with Mazda by the early 2020s, while the release of autonomous driving technology for freeway use will coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games which are sponsored by the Japanese auto giant.

Speaking at a press conference at the Tokyo motor show today, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) executive vice-president Didier Leroy claimed the Japanese car-maker’s vast experience with hybrid cars would place it at a competitive advantage when it came to the debut of a new-generation full-electric vehicle.

According to Mr Leroy, Toyota already has achieved a 43 per cent global sales share among vehicles with some form of electrification, thanks to the production of 37 models that sell in more than 90 countries.

“With more than 11 million electrified cars we have sold in the past 20 years, we have developed and improved many electrified components, including motors, inverters, electric control software and batteries,” he said.

“This experience puts us in a very good position for the next step, which is pure EVs. We have no doubt that EVs will be one of the key (environmental) solutions in the near future. This is why we have created a new company with Mazda and Denso to develop EV architecture with a view to mass production.

“Currently, we have more than 200 engineers working hard to be able to commercialise this technology sometime in the early 2020s.” Mr Leroy revealed that advances in solid-state battery technology were being pursued for its new EV that would substantially improve driving range between recharging and improve mass-production viability.

“We have also invested in advanced battery research for a very long time, and we believe our solid-state battery technology can be a game-changer with the potential to dramatically improve driving range,” he said.

Announced earlier this month, TMC has a 90 per cent stake in the new electric vehicle company called EV Common Architecture Spirit (EVCAS), which is based near the car-maker’s headquarters in Nagoya, Japan.

Mazda Motor Corporation and Denso Corporation each hold a five per cent share in the joint venture that will deliver EV architecture for passenger cars, SUVs and trucks for each company.

Despite the focus on electrification, which Mr Leroy said was exemplified by the hybrid Tj Cruiser and GR HV Sports concepts unveiled in Tokyo, he also said Toyota remained committed to the development of hydrogen technology, as demonstrated by the Fine-Comfort Ride (F-CR) and Sora bus concepts also previewed at the show.

Before the fruit of the EV partnership is revealed, Mr Leroy confirmed that cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be rolled out in Japan and the United States from next year, with full autonomous and completely driverless technology available for use on freeways by 2020.

“Artificial intelligence … will only be possible thanks to connectivity and big data,” he said.

“That is why, as early as 2018, the new Toyota Crown based on the concept here … will be the new norm for connected vehicles in Japan.

“After Crown, we will equip almost all of our passenger cars in Japan and the US by 2020 with data communication modules and connection to our Mobility Service Platform in the cloud.” The next-generation Crown was previewed at the Tokyo show by a concept based on the Toyota New Global Architecture – as used by the C-HR and the latest Prius hybrid – while prototypes have been undergoing testing at the Nurburgring in Germany.

The company says the focus with the new Crown is on both vehicle connectivity and dynamic performance.

As previously reported, TMC further previewed AI technology with a duo of mobility “objects” dubbed Concept-i – including i-Walk that allows an owner to continue a journey where vehicles cannot, and i-Ride which is a 2.5m-long passenger pod.

Both incorporate an AI agent called Yui, who “understands people”. It will gather cloud-based data and owner information and habits, aimed at acquiring “deep learning” of the owner while “measuring emotions and estimating preferences”.

A form of AI could be syncing the navigation to a destination the computer recognises an owner needs to go, changing a route due to a traffic jam, and finding a carpark thanks to real-time communication with other road users.

Such technology will provide the basis for what TMC has dubbed “automated driving” with both Chauffeur and Guardian modes set to be offered in future.

“In Chauffeur mode, our cars will be smart enough to handle all driving tasks and provide mobility to those who cannot enjoy it now,” Mr Leroy said.

“In Guardian mode, we combine human and machine skills to make driving safer and to keep the liberating feeling of driving as the car’s technology is running in the background for your safety.

“Guardian and Chauffeur both reflect Toyota’s unique approach of developing a safety system where the driver and the car act like teammates. We call it Mobility Teammate, and it will be on the market in 2020 for highways and in the early 2020s for normal roads.” Lexus also used the Tokyo motor show to display an LS+ concept with high levels of autonomous driving capability, which is expected to reach the LS production model by 2020.

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