NEW YORK – First-time exhibitor Toyota came to Japan’s largest consumer electronics show, CEATEC, this week to show off its single-seater electric vehicle named “Smart Insect.”
The Insect features gull-wing doors and is trapped in a body similar to Toyota’s single-seater EV named COMS. With a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour, COMS can travel 50 kilometers on a five-hour charge. COMS has been available in Japan since this summer at 600,000 yen (about $7,700).
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“Insect” is being shown at CEATEC as a “concept car,” according to the Japanese automaker, meaning no price tag or no availability date.
Smart Insect also marks Toyota’s initial foray into the consumer electronics market. The auto maker is pitching the EV as a platform – or “a playground” – to showcase as many bells and whistles as its engineers could come up with.
With Japan’s electronics industry in a deep slump, it’s unclear whether the auto sector can provide it with a badly needed boost. Still, the two sectors continue to look for synergies.
Smart Insect features an elaborate motion detection system (Microsoft’s Kinect) to identify its owner along with other motion sensors used to predict driving behavior. A docking port in the dashboard for smart phones allows handsets to be synchronized with online services while recharging wirelessly. The Insect also has a large LCD screen above the steering wheel to display smart phone information.
The EV also displays a welcome message on front and rear screens when the owner approaches the car. A voice recognition technology allows the user to open the car door and to perform other functions.
It is also designed to connect with entertainment and navigation services via Toyota's Smart Center. An integrated home energy management system allows drivers to adjust air conditioning and lock the front door via a smart phone app.
Smart Insect represents Toyota strategy of “connecting people, cars and homes.” Ultimately, the vehicle is akin to a consumer electronics gadget offering telematics on steroids. Related stories: