Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers which for years has focused on building reliable, fun to drive cars, is now also looking beyond personal-use vehicles to survive in an industry which is being transformed by the onslaught of electrification, automation and other new technologies.
As sharing services change car use and ownership, Simon Humphries, Toyota Motor Corporations’ new design chief have faith that vehicles will shift towards either generic boxes on wheels for everyday use or ultra-luxury cars, wiping out the need for mass-market models.
Humphries, responsible for design at the Toyota and Lexus brands, said that fleets of electric, self-driving shuttle bus-like vehicles could one day eliminate the need for people to drive themselves around on a daily basis. This could one day make some of its models obsolete down the line.
As automakers compete to come up with new, profitable transport services, Toyota last month showed a self-driving electric concept vehicle which can be used as buses, mobile shops or moving offices.
Meanwhile, the ability for cars to drive themselves in the future, along with the development of electric cars, will be a game-changer for vehicle design, Humphries said, as it will eliminate the need for steering wheels, engines, petrol tanks and other traditional parts, enabling more flexibility to design vehicles which are more fit-for-purpose.
“At the moment everything in a car from a design point of view is based on a 100-year old package of engine in the front, and a driver holding a steering wheel behind. When you don’t have to hold a steering wheel, the world is your oyster’’.
For Humphries, Toyota is going going to see this optimized (transport) system, but on the other side, will be a pure race car. “There will be an emotional solution, and a practical solution. So maybe the story is that the middle ground is increasingly going to disappear.” He stated.