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Toyota to Test Self-Driving Cars by 2020 That Will Also Converse With You

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Toyota Concept-i Series

We’ve known for some time now that the 2020s will be the decade of self-driving cars. Just about all major auto manufacturers are working hard at making autonomous vehicles ready for mass production by around that time, including Toyota. But in their case it seems self-driving capability will be just one of the things the cars can do—while they’re busy driving you places with minimal input, they’ll also engage in conversation with you.

At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Toyota unveiled the Concept-i, a car equipped with an advanced AI system that would supposedly be able to tell how you’re feeling and strive to build a relationship with you. For the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota has added a “universal small mobility vehicle” and a “walking area mobility vehicle” to the Toyota Concept-i series. They will be on display from October 25 to November 5 at Tokyo Big Sight.

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According to Toyota, the three core values of the Concept-i will be to learn, protect, and inspire: “It combines technology that understands people (“LEARN”) with automated driving and agent technology, and provides drivers with safety and peace of mind (“PROTECT”), and new Fun to Drive experiences (“INSPIRE”) to enrich the enjoyment of moving.”

Supposedly, the AI can read the driver’s expressions, actions, and tone of voice to determine their emotion and level of alertness. It can work from there to estimate driver preferences. It will also work to “[support] the driver by stimulating the five senses, including vision, touch, and smell depending on the driver’s emotion, degree of fatigue, and level of alertness to rouse drivers into an alert state when they feel drowsy, and to help drivers experiencing higher levels of stress feel more relaxed.”

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Clearly, however, having a car that can drive itself might lead to boredom while on the road. That could be one of the reasons Toyota plans to have the AI engage in conversation with the driver based on their emotions and preferences.

“The car suggests topics of interest based on the mood of the driver, achieving a completely new style of two-way free conversation. In addition, it creates an ‘Emotion Map’ by periodically mapping the driver’s emotion and GPS data. By collecting data on individual emotions and using this information as big data, the TOYOTA Concept-i series can deliver fresh experiences by suggesting new, enjoyable routes as slight detours.”

Toyota plans to begin testing vehicles equipped some of these functions by around 2020 on Japanese roads.