“Deep learning” ability of future vehicles will benefit mobile and immobile people.

Think 'emotion' and 'driving' – no, not road rage but the way Toyota are using emotion in a bold, new way, linking it to how we will get around in the future.

Like in the i-Ride micro-car, for example, part of the car maker's global and deliberate shift from car maker to mobility company. The i-Ride is a little over 2m long, a tiny electric vehicle with a range of up to 145km, designed for both physically sound drivers and those using a wheelchair.

It is one of the many concepts unveiled by Toyota at last month's CES show in Las Vegas; today's video from Dr Michelle Dickinson (Nanogirl) shows the full range of the company's development under the "Future of Mobility" banner – including the e-Palette, the Concept i-series (including the i-Ride), the i-Walk, the Human Support Robot and the Fine Comfort Ride.

Hand controls in the i-Ride replace pedals and steering wheel – making it easier to control – and gullwing doors make it easier to enter and exit the car, with space to stow the wheelchair. It's extremely useful for the elderly or those who can't walk and doubles as a smart, nippy electric car round town.


From a mobility point of view, you can see how Toyota is diversifying from straight car manufacturing to products which make it easier for everyone to be mobile; where crossing the room is just as important as crossing town.

It's an emotive subject – ask anyone without mobility how important it is to them. Now Toyota is delving into the intangible aspects of emotion with developments like the i-Ride.

It can be operated fully autonomously and has additional features like automated parking and a self-parking valet. But, like all i-Concept vehicles from Toyota, the i-Ride also uses an artificial intelligence system to gauge human emotions.

Why is that useful? Because the vehicle's system builds up a bank of knowledge about its users' habits and preferences – and even emotions. Artificial intelligence means the system accrues knowledge of the drivers as human beings by analysing facial expressions, driving habits, conversation history, estimating the driver's preferences based on recurring topics and habits.

It estimates emotion and levels of alertness by comparing general information such as news on the web with social media activity, GPS data and in-car conversations. Toyota call it "deep learning" – the ability of the system to understand how the driver is feeling.

That's useful because the vehicle can jiggle the seats to wake up a sleepy driver – and suggest a stop at a noodle joint to refresh. It can sense a driver becoming moody or depressed and can play a favourite song to cheer him or her up.

In time, Toyota want a system that can predict a driver's state of mind – like rhythmically inflating and deflating the driver's seat if he or she is becoming annoyed by a traffic jam; the rhythmical attention helps to slow the driver's breathing, taking the edge off his or her edginess.

This is no once-off, experimental dabbling. If you've been watching the Winter Olympics, you'll have seen Toyota's new global advertising campaign (part of an eight-year initiative to support their Olympic and Paralympic games sponsorship), underlining their move from car maker to mobility company.

The "Start Your Impossible" campaign presents a new positioning for the company: "When you're free to move, anything is possible."

That is also emphasised by the futuristic i-Walk – a much more advanced upright single rider machine than the Segway, taking the concept into new dimensions.

Unlike the Segway, which requires riders to lean to steer, the i-Walk has a tricycle base with an extendable wheelbase and is steered by a small joystick. It is highly manoeuvrable, needing only the walking space of an average adult to make a complete turn, and takes up no more space than an ordinary pedestrian walking, says Toyota.

As to safety, the i-Walk's artificial intelligence allows it to intervene automatically to avoid footpath collisions. It has a range of up to 19km and a maximum speed of 6km/hr.

Toyota is aiming for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a stage to show how "impossible" will not apply to the way we move – fully autonomous vehicles transporting athletes and robotic attendants suddenly seem easily and powerfully…possible.