A trio of bizarre concept cars are on display at the Toronto Auto Show.
If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from automakers, it’s that they've always go a little too far when it comes to concept cars. After all, what’s the point of a concept car if not to push the boundaries of what’s possible as far as they can go?
At the Toronto Auto Show, Japanese carmakers Toyota, Lexus, and Nissan had a trio of weird concept cars on display to show the world what the future could look like. It probably won’t, but it could, and these three manufacturers are preparing in vastly different ways.
If you were going to make an EV that specifically carted people around town, what would it look like? Toyota's all-electric i-TRIL looks like a tiny urban car from the movie Tron, which is a pretty good stereotype to draw on for futurism. Certainly better than Mad Max.
The i-TRIL was initially revealed at last year’s Geneva Motor Show and drew quite a bit of attention for its outlandish looks and strange driving behavior. The car actually leans into curves like a motorcyclist would, tilting the front wheels and even the cabin up to 10 degrees while it banks around a tight urban corridor. The back wheels remain firmly flat, so the passengers would have this impression of being in an electrically-powered fighter jet.
On top of its unique styling and unique steering, the i-TRIL is also capable of fully autonomous driving. Just sit down, press a button, and let the little tilty-car take you to your destination.
Toyota expects urban commuter cars to look like this in the future, say around the year 2030. Although, we’d expect Toyota to take out the middle swivel chair and install rowed seating to be more space efficient.
Most light vehicles sold in North America aren’t actually cars, but crossovers, SUVs, and trucks. Nissan decided to take the upward trend, draw a straight line 20 years from now, and imagine a world that has become one with both nature, technology, and a love for SUVs.
The X-Motion concept debuted at the Detroit Auto Show last month and then made its way to Canada a few weeks later. And Canadians may find the futuristic SUV more appealing than anything else on display since the car’s interior is mostly made out of wood.
That’s right: behind that sci-fi exterior lies a cabin that has more in common with traditional Japanese artwork and architecture than anything from the future. The command dash and center console all have a wooden framework reminiscent of sailing ships of old. Unlike modern luxury cars like Bentley’s or Rolls Royces, the use of wood isn’t just for a few fancy accents here or there and is instead built into the very structure of the car.
Considering the fact all that wood will turn into shrapnel in the event of a crash, one supposes Nissan thinks crashes won’t be a thing in the future.
If being in the i-TRIL is like being in a fighter jet, being in the X-motion is like being on the bridge of a starship. There are no buttons, only touch-activated screens, and some of the controls are activated by hand gestures and eye motion. Sensors inside the cabin track the driver’s arm movements and activate systems based on where he or she points their arms or eyes.
Lexus LS+ Concept
Lexus brought the least outrageous concept car to Toronto, at least on the outside. On the inside things are a little more out there. The LS+ Concept is designed to showcase all the autonomous driving software under development at Lexus and what they plan to bring to the real world very soon—say, in the year 2020.
Along with the Knight Rider inspired front fascia comes another item taken from the ‘80s crime drama: artificial intelligence. Called “Highway Teammate,” Lexus plans to introduce fully autonomous driving software to their line of luxury cars in the very near future.
At the start, Highway Teammate won’t do anything we haven’t seen before on a Tesla. It’ll have lane following, adaptive cruise control so it keeps an appropriate distance from other cars on the freeway, and it’ll even be able to handle lane changes and merging with traffic.
Over time, the artificial intelligence learns the local driving conditions and also gets continuous updates from Lexus’ data center, eventually becoming better and safer to the point where you can push a button and the car drives itself from the on-ramp to the exit ramp.
Lexus will start applying the technologies developed in the LS+ Concept to select vehicles in 2020. The era of self-driving, AI-driven cars may be a lot closer than we think.