DSC02817-300x225

Toyota's Bob Carter unveils the Concept-i at the CES in Las Vegas (Photo: Arjen Bongard)

LAS VEGAS -- Toyota Motor unveiled a concept car here featuring artificial intelligence technology that is designed to learn and grow with the driver.

The Japanese carmaker said at the CES consumer electronics show that its Concept-i demonstrates how highly automated vehicles will require a totally  new kind of user interface. The Concept-i, it says,  puts the user's needs central.

In the car, which has many features that willl undergo road tests in Japan in the next few years, artificial intelligence will anticipate people's needs, inspire their imagination and allow for improvements in the user experience.

"We recognize that the important question isn’t whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies; it is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota USA.

Toyota, like many of its competitors, has been investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The carmaker sees AI as key to the eventual successful shift to autonomous driving. In November 2015, Toyota announced a 5-year 1 billion dlr investment in artificial intelligence.

Gill Pratt, the scientist who heads the Toyota Research Institute that is leading the carmaker's AI and machine-learning research, repeated earlier warnings that full autonomous driving is probably years away. He noted that, though autonomous cars will undoubtedly be safer than vehicles driven by humans, people's acceptance of errors made by machines tends to be relatively low.

"We expect machines to be much better than we are," Pratt said. What kind of failure rates people would accept for autonomous vehicles is not yet clear, he added.

The Concept-i unveiled at this year's CES leverages multiple technologies that all aim to improve quality of life in and around the car, Toyota said.

The AI envisioned in the car measures emotion mapped against where and when the driver travels. AI is also deployed to make the car safer, as it monitors driver attention and road conditions.

Toyota wants the Concept-I's image to be warm, welcoming and fund. One of the new features designed to achieve this is the next-generation user interface that uses light, sound and touch to communicate critical information.

CES, the world's biggest consumer electronics show, takes place each year in early January. The show has attracted growing automotive interest as software, consumer electronics and IT are becoming key technologies for tomorrow's vehicles.

This year's show starts with two press days, January 3 and 4, and runs through January 8.

-By Arjen Bongard