Concept robocars at Tokyo Auto Show and more

As expected, there’s more news from the Tokyo auto show, which is well known for strange concept cars.

First there is the Toyota Fun Vii

The video is very science-fictional, though they have built a concept to look at without the auto-driving. Amusingly, they do show something I have always thought would be a nice ironic demo — playing a car racing game while in a self-driving car. While we are some distance away form a car where the entire surface, inside and out, is a display, I do think we’ll see display panels on robocars to help them act as taxis. Those display panels will say who the taxi is for, and might even have your favourite bumper sticker slogan while you move inside. Inside displays will be useful for all the things you would expect — dashboard, work and entertainment.

Toyota is also showing a Prius with a system them call AVOS (Automatic Vehicle Operation System.) While this is said to be a longer-term self-driving systems, report suggest that what will be done at the motor show is back-seat rides demonstrating parking ability and pickup at the door, similar to Nissan’s Pivo and Stanford’s Junior 3, but with some added obstacle avoidance. I have not seen reports of rides as yet. The Prius itself is use more basic sensors than the Google car and other major robocars.

Speaking of Nissan, this brief interview with Mitsuhiko Yamashita, head of R&D, still promotes the idea of dedicated lanes, which I believe would vastly slow the deployment of self-driving vehicles.

On the other hand, speaking of Google, here’s a New York Times op-ed by Sebastian Thrun with his picture of the future.

Toyota Video

I was disappointed with the Toyota video. It seemed to be as much about futuristic sign writing as it was about transport.
The best concept video I have seen is still the (2011 Chevrolet EN-V Concept Car - Reinventing The Automobile) video.

On a separate note, Rio Tinto have recently announced that they are going to increase their current fleet of driver-less haul trucks to 150 units at their Pilbara iron ore mines.
I don't know if there is much chance of any of the "Komatsu FrontRunner system" technology converging with other autonomous systems being developed, but it is interesting that this is no longer just experimental. At 800 tonnes fully loaded, they must have a lot of confidence in the technology.

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