Self-driving cars are so 2016. Self-aware cars are what's in for 2017.
Toyota unveiled Wednesday its Concept-i technology showcase at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The future autonopod has all the hallmarks of fantasy auto show stuff: weird doors, no side mirrors, big wheels, "Minority Report" style user interface, and so on.
What's worth paying attention to in Toyota's is the advanced safety systems included in the concept that monitor driver attention, road conditions, and other factors to determine when it's time to let you take control. Like a bad (or good?) Yakov Smirnoff joke: in the future, cars will decide when it's time to let you drive.
Developed at Toyota's CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, California, with help from Toyota's San Francisco folks, the concept is heavily based on the notion of artificial intelligence for cars. We're not sure how sophisticated the Concept-i's AI system actually is, but the intention is there: safety may best be left to the robots first, people second.
We're clearly a long way from AI in cars, but flip-flopping who's in charge of the steering wheel and when? That may not be so far off. Automakers have long had attention-assist services and we're right on the cusp of nearly full self-driving cars taking to public roadways. Marrying the two systems together is a novel concept.