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Toyota catches the smartphone bug with INSECT electric vehicle concept

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Gallery Photo: Toyota INSECT photos
Gallery Photo: Toyota INSECT photos

Toyota is no stranger to the electric vehicle market, but today the company showed off its idea for what personal conveyance could look like in the smartphone era. The Smart INSECT (short for "Information Network Social Electric City Transporter") is a single-passenger vehicle modeled on the company’s COMS "super-compact electric vehicle," but adding a communication antenna, facial and voice recognition, GPS, and motion sensors for a more connected driving experience.

Toyota put on a quick 5-minute demo of how the new features would be used on a typical day to work. After unlocking her car with facial recognition and speaking her destination to the car’s computer, our protagonist set out on her trip. On the way, she was able to check the status of her smart home’s various utilities, deciding to turn off the air conditioner she accidentally left on. After asking the car to play the music she "always listens to" (pulled from her smartphone), the car helpfully advises her that the convenience store she’s about to pass is offering a new variety of bento lunchbox.

So is the Smart INSECT the vehicle of the future? Some of the features Toyota was showing off were a little bit questionable (are there people that want in-car advertising?), but all of the underlying technology is widely available, making it not so much a concept car as an imagining of how the company might implement what's already out there. A representative tells us that Toyota has no plans to actually produce the Smart INSECT, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of its tricks in the company’s future cars.