Japanese car makers have been showing weird and wacky concept vehicles at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.
Designed to charm the country’s younger generations, who are quickly losing interest in the concept of owning or driving a car, the expo showcases some of the most imaginative designs for road vehicles that we’ve ever seen. Among the mix were cars that drove themselves without emitting any pollution while others entertained passengers with online movies and social media.
One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers of self-driving cars is their safety. Autonomous vehicles, as they’re known in the industry, would have to share the roads with normal cars as well as with pedestrians crossing the road, animals and unexpected objects. In response, a lot of the self-driving cars at the show packed technology into designs that resembled golf carts and scooters, rather than cars – much like the Honda Motor Company's Wander Stand and Wander Walker scooter. Instead of trying to venture on freeways and other public roads, these are designed for controlled environments, restricted to shuttling people to pre-determined destinations.
Called IDS, which stands for "intelligent driving system", the car resembles a futuristic version of the company’s popular Juke. Nissan also claimed that self-driving cars will be hitting the roads in Japan by next year. By 2018, it said vehicles with the technology will be able to change lane on highways. By 2020, such vehicles will be able to make their way through intersections on regular urban roads.
Nissan said it is working hard to make the car smart enough to recognise the difference between a red traffic light and a tail light, learn how to turn on junctions, where white lane indicators might be missing, and anticipate from body language when a pedestrian might cross a road – smart thinking !
Other concepts on offer included the sleek Mercedes-Benz Vision. A new MPV targeted at the Generation Z, that’s anyone born after 1995. Vision shows how the car of the future can be turned into a ‘hip’ (their word, not ours) living space amidst the mayhem of traffic. Featuring a single kerbside door, which opens upwards and comes to rest parallel to the roof, the car is able to switch between assisted and self-drive modes. It’s also socially connected too, apps maps and social media are all presented via a 3D hologram at the centre of the interior.
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