Toyota's new Concept-i Ride is your tiny automotive friend about town

Darrell Etherington

Toyota unveiled two new members of its Concept-i series at the Tokyo Motor Show this year, including the new Concept-i Ride, designed for in-city transportation and equipped with user-friendly functions intended specifically for wheelchair users. The i-Ride is tailor-made for universal, shared mobility per the automaker.

It's a quite compact vehicle, which Toyota says makes it very easy to park in dense urban areas. It also means wheelchair users do not need to look for wheelchair specific spots, and are still able to get into and out of the car in normally sized spaces according to Toyota.

The vehicle features wraparound large window, which allow for a wide view of the road, and therefore peace of mind for the user, per the carmaker.

Currently, it's also hard to get wheelchairs into a car, and the process could get clothes dirty since you're basically dragging the wheelchair across your body into the passenger side. This concept mode lifts the wheelchair up using the power door, and then you can pull It into the vehicle next to the seat towards the back of the cabin, without taking up crucial driver cabin space.

The car is also equipped with a power seat to address the issues wheelchair users have with entering the vehicle by providing ample range of motion.

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The driver's seat slides from side to side and raises and lowers to minimize the gap between curb nd car, and to allow easiest possible entry for wheelchair users.

The Concept-I Ride positions that driver's at the center of the front of the car, hopefully making for a more pleasant and less distracted driving experience, with easier to judge positioning of the car since there are equal distances between yourself and either side of the vehicle.

Also, when there's a need to carry a passenger, the passenger seat is arranged diagonally behind the driver seat for maximum spacial feel, and without changing the positioning of that center-sat driver seat.

To drive the vehicle, the Concept-i Ride does not use a steering wheel, but instead uses a joystick instead on the armrest. if you shift the controller forward the car will move forward, and likewise for backwards, right and left – there are no pedals for acceleration and gas, since it's all done via the joysticks.

Concept-i Ride will have Toyota's Yui AI agent on board, and incorporated into the front panel. Yui, which first debuted at CES with the original i-Concept, creates relationships with the driver. also the agent follows the driver across vehicles, so it' perfect fit for cars like this one, given how focused it is on providing the building blocks for car sharing service models.

This vehicle is designed to be fully electric with a total range of between 100 and 150 km, or up to 93 miles on a single charge. That's not industry leading by any means, but it should work well for those in an urban environment looking for a car they can use to run errands locally and occasionally take short day trips.

Toyota hopes to field the Concept-i series by around 2020, starting with a version of the car it debuted at CES.

Disclaimer: Toyota provided accommodations and travel for this trip to the Tokyo Motor Show.