Toyota has revealed their newest concept, the Smart INSECT, which inexplicably stands for: Information Network Social Electricity City Transporter. The INSECT is no relation to Daimler’s Smart line of vehicles, but is an update of Toyota’s COMS (“Chotto Odekake Machimade Suisui,” or “a little smooth driving around town”) concept, a doorless EV with a 31-mile range and a top speed of 37 mph. Both acronym vehicles have the same performance stats, but the INSECT features new body styling and more elaborate — and slightly confounding — technology.
Besides a trim, urban-friendly physique, the INSECT comes with facial recognition technology. As you approach the car, cameras analyze your face to verify the driver’s identity. Once authenticated, the car flashes its headlights and says, “Hello.” If the car’s cordial tone isn’t strange enough, the door functions are possibly the weirdest we’ve seen. According to the product demonstration, the driver approaches the car and flaps her arms like a bird. The car recognizes the motion, and opens the gull-wing doors. When they’re closed, the doors only reach part-way down, leaving the legs exposed. So it’s both weird and dysfunctional.
On the interior, the car runs behavior-recognition software. After syncing with the driver’s smartphone, the INSECT links with a cloud system that provides each vehicle with its own virtual agent. The software adjusts everything from the stereo volume to the fog lamp intensity according to driver habits. When traveling on a new route, users can speak voice commands for navigation and make changes on-the-fly. The system works remotely, too, which means that if you’re stuck in the office or at home, the air conditioning can be fired up, and the doors can be unlocked, though the massive gulfs in the doors aren’t much of a theft deterrent.
The car’s top speed and one-man capacity means that, if it makes it to production, it’ll be reserved for urban delivery fleets. But in this guise, the INSECT makes the Smart ForTwo look almost practical, and that’s a feat unto itself.