The 46th Tokyo Motor Show is ongoing until November 4, and it has much more to showcase than just cars.
Spread over several venues around Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo Bay, the 2019 event features 187 companies and their products, including the newest models of each Japanese auto company, such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, and many more.
An innovative feature of this year’s expo is a whole section dedicated to how the industry envisions the future of Japanese life. This area shows off cutting-edge technology from 60 corporations and entities, including industry giants NEC, Panasonic, and NTT. With so much variety, there is truly something for everyone.
But of course, as the name itself of the event suggests, the main star of the show are automobile vehicles, and aimed to answer the essential question: how will cars, as we know them, change in the future?
Electric Vehicle at the Forefront?
Especially with the recent award of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry to Japanese scientist and innovator Akira Yoshino for the invention of lithium batteries, one can’t help but think what the future might just be in the development of electrical cars. Despite outstanding issues, such as the relatively slow charging of electric car batteries, the industry and the international community certainly seem to be going in that direction.
Nissan unveiled its latest concept for this technology, the Airiya concept car. It offers a sleek design, with electric vehicle technology seamlessly woven into its features. These include the Nissan Intelligent Mobility, looking forward to remote park assist from a connected smartphone and adaptive travel experience in the shape of an elegantly-designed SUV electrical vehicle (EV) with zero emissions.
The EV is also modified for the stereotypically Japanese model — the light car, known as K-car in Japanese, the Nissan IMk concept, which envisions the EV city commuter version. Although there is no confirmed production date for either of these concept cars, the strength of the concepts seems to be in their feasibility as most concept cars tend to be relatively abstract projections of what a company is aiming to achieve 10 years down the line. This feasibility could indicate an introduction in the market in the near future.
And from the words of the developers at a press conference on October 23, it certainly seems that Nissan is striving to be a trendsetter in the industry.
“These are transformational times for the auto industry, and a new era is opening up for Nissan,” said Kunio Nakaguro, Nissan’s executive vice president of global research. “We have been among the fastest to develop EVs and highly intelligent driving assistance technologies, and, as shown by our two new concept vehicles, we intend to continue our role as a global pioneer.”
The luxury line by Toyota, Lexus, after much suspense, unveiled for the first time the concept car of the electric vehicle called LF-30 Electrified. Looking like something which is taken out of a Blade-Runner sci-fi film with a futuristic design, the model envisions not having an engine at the front, putting the battery at the bottom of the car, and creating a cock-pit inspired experience which could feature AR for increasing experience of the driver.
However, the conversation with the Lexus Group manager also still revealed some of the difficulties in developing electric cars. “There are still some issues we are working on…such as positioning the battery under the car floor, or the fact that electrical charging still takes 6 hours,” explained Yoshimitsu Miyanaga.
An alternative was also provided by Toyota, with the concept vehicle aptly called Mirai, the Japanese word for “future.” This vehicle is focused on hydrogen technologies.
Announced on October 11 by Toyota, it is a final revisiting of the second stage model of the zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). With claims of greater range, improved driving performance as well as design for a better driving experience, its progress points the way to a potential “hydrogen-powered society.”
AI Agent Technology
Although most of the novelty in the industry had to do with electric engines, not all models chose to put emphasis on this side of the project.
Toyota unveiled LQ concept car, a development of the first model, which was unveiled in 2017 at TMS.
The approach is interesting because it aims to create an emotional bond with the driver, and adapting as much as possible by using an AI agent to cater to the driver’s needs.
AI to create an adaptive experience isn’t altogether new — after all, Alexa and Siri have been on the market for years. However, this time the AI agent might just be the one talking to you.
For example, let’s suppose you are feeling sleepy. Toyota group manager Daisuke Ido explained to us how the AI could react, by using the preferences initially input by the owner of the car: “If the driver likes sports, the AI agent can start talking to him, asking him for example what he thought of the last rugby match, and so on, in order to keep the driver awake.”
In addition to the AI technology, the car is an EV, has the functions to drive automatically, and is set to create its first drivable prototype by 2020, especially for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Mr Ido shared with us some of the difficulties in developing automated driving vehicles, as, given the limited spread of the cars, there are still legal and emotional obstacles to overcome regarding automated driving.
He explained: “For example, one of the things which we envision as engineers is that, if a car is stopped suddenly, and it’s unsafe, the car should be able to start again on its own. Legally, that is not allowed. Furthermore, there are still people who don’t feel safe, we are hoping that this will change in the future.”
Venue: Tokyo Big Sight (Aomi Hall, West/ South Hall, MEGAWEB, Symbol Promenade Park, the Parking lot next to Tokyo Fashion Town Building)
Dates: October 24 to November 4, 2019
October 25, 9 AM - 2 PM
General Public Days
October 25 (Fri), 2 PM - 8 PM
Monday- Saturday 10 AM - 8 PM
Sunday and Holidays 10 AM - 6 PM
Adults: Same day ¥2,000, advance ticket ¥1,800, same day after 4 PM (except Sunday and holidays: ¥1,000
High school students and under: Free
Persons presenting proof of disability and one person accompanying them (or two accompanying persons if the disabled person uses a wheelchair): Free
Approximately 7 minutes’ walk from Kokusai-Tenjijo Station, Tokyo Metro Rinkai Line
Approximately 3 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Big Sight Station, Yurikagome Line
For additional information, follow this link.
Author: Arielle Busetto