Toyota revealed the Concept-i at CES on Wednesday, a new concept vehicle that the company built with its Newport Beach CALTY design research group, with tech supplied by the carmaker’s SF-based innovation hub. I spoke to CALTY Project Design Manager William Chergosky about the process of creating Concept-i, which he said was about finding a way to bring the excitement people feel about driving now to a potential future in which autonomous driving is much more prevalent.
“We’ve been working on this for approximately two years, and we’re trying to create a futuristic vision for the 2030 automobile that’s really fun to drive,” Chergosky explained. “As everyone’s moving towards an autonomous future, what’s Toyota’s vision of that? We had a real fundamental belief in this idea of ‘waku-doki’ – getting your heart racing. Is that something that dies with this future? I don’t think it is.”
A big part of achieving that comes down to user experience design, according to Chergosky, which is why the Concept-i pays close attention to how the car greets the user, and how it signals a shift from manual to autonomous driving mode. LED lights across the body and throughout the interior cue the driver about their driving experience, setting the tone for either method of control.
“Our fundamental idea behind it was trying to humanize or warm up the technology, and make it more approachable,” he said. “The idea of trying to humanize it is to try to narrow that gap between you and the technology […] it’s a participant.”