Will 2030 be the year we see in-route drone deliveries to living spaces on wheels? Will we see new forms of entertainment, such as mobile karaoke bars? By the year 2030, will it be possible for a person to secure his electric-assist wheelchair in a shared, electric autonomous vehicle without assistance?
These are just some of the visions that Toyota Boshoku has as it plans for mobility that is electrified and autonomous. Ultimately, their Mobility as a Service goals is to deliver the right vehicle with the right configuration to the right people at the right time.
Richard Chung, Chief Branding Officer and Center Chief Interior Space Visioneering Center for Toyota Boshoku, says they are designing for diversitility, which is a combination of diversity and versatility. In the above interview, Chung provides an overview of three of their concept vehicles on display at CES2023.
- MOOX – “X-On-Wheels” – an autonomous, electric mobility as a service concept vehicle that allows various space application, such as business, dining, healthcare, shopping, and entertainment.
- MX221 – An autonomous, electric reconfigurable rideshare vehicle built with inclusiveness (e.g. wheelchair ramp & associated locking mechanism).
- MX ACCESS – An electric-assist wheelchair designed for comfort, inclusiveness, and safety.
A Clean Slate Equals Opportunity for Inclusive Design #
By starting with a clean slate, the Boshoku team redesigned the typical bent tube wheelchair design to one that incorporates the modern automotive seat structure. Combined with their patented easy docking system, this gives makes it comparable to an automotive seat that can withstand 40 to 50 G’s of impact and still protect the occupant.
They have done this, while reducing the load time from 15 to 20 minutes to about 2-minutes. This starts with a ramp that automatically extends for wheelchair access. The automatic docking system locks the wheelchair in place. Once secured, the wheelchair looks and performs like any of the other seats in the vehicle.
As with their other concepts, Toyota Boshoku’s focus is on the user experience. With the wheelchair, this means comfort, such as adjustable and height reclining armrests and headrests. It means under cushion storage and reachable smartphone and drink holders. It manifests itself in seat cushions that can be changed when they are dirty or to meet the user’s needs.
A Modular Approach to Meet Tomorrow’s Demands #
The ability to change seat cushions is just one way Toyota Boshoku is designing its vehicles to maximize service life. This modular approach is an underlying premise to improving sustainability by reducing production energy, increasing non-petroleum-based feedstock, reducing waste, eliminating weight, and improving thermal management.
Toyota Boshoku envisions a modular interior that can be changed by the service provider at rideshare hub to meet the needs of a given customer. The three tier levels he describes is reminiscent of the three levels of rideshare service proposed here. They envision that these flexible pods will be more than transportation and more like the mobile living spaces envisioned here.
As these will be unattended spaces, they see the need for features such as
- Even when the vehicles are shared with others, the rides will be personalized thanks to the smartphone.1
- per passenger heating and cooling control
- health and emotion monitoring (e.g., heart rate detection)
- motion sickness prevention (audio, haptic, visual, and air jets on the back of the neck)
- automatic cabin cleaning, including ultraviolet cleansing after a passenger leaves the vehicle.
- Entertainment (video, games, etc.) delivered via screens with per seat private audio
Chung suggests that human attendants will still be part of the service for those with extra needs and/or for those choosing the premium cabin option.
In a video prepared for CES2023, Chung explains their solution to eliminating the “deadhead” problem associated with existing ride hail services.2 Similar to TrentonMOVES kiosk concept, Toyota Boshoku envisions repurposing gas stations (YouTube) into rideshare hubs, where vehicles will standby until they are dispatched. Conceivably, the service might incent a passenger by offering a reduced price to walk to one of these hubs.
Interview Highlights #
- 00:13 – Toyota Boshoku’s roots started as a looming company and now they supply interiors to many of the world’s leading luxury car brands.
- 00:56 – Toyota Boshoku is showing their concept of inclusive Level 4, autonomous vehicle (driverless vehicle limited to an operational design domain, typically a geographic area).
- 01:54 – Toyota Boshoku’s created a patented wheelchair design
- 02:54 – Is this wheelchair and locking mechanism going to be standardized such that wheelchairs from any supplier can mate with vehicles from any supplier?
- 04:53 – These are envisioned as fleet vehicles that seat up to six people, not ones that will be sold to the public. The key thing is that the same vehicle can be modified at the service hub within 5-minutes to provide different service types.
- 06:13 – Chung talks about some of the in-cabin features, such as health monitoring via biometric sensors, air deodorizers, and personalized air conditioning and heating.
- 07:57 – These sort of electric vehicles could also deliver packages and other types of experiences, as Chung points out with their MOOX concept vehicle.
1 In 2030, will this be a smartphone, a smartwatch or something yet to be invented?
2 Deadheading is the time spent vehicle repositioning vehicles to serve customers. Chung estimates that up to 40% of current rideshare services vehicle miles traveled is due to deadheading.