This is a look into a future where you and your car are best buds

Back in 2017, Toyota brought a quirky concept vehicle called the “Concept-i” at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Now, an evolution of that same concept will debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. It goes by the “LQ Concept,” and, among other nifty tricks, the LQ Concept is largely defined by a personal assistant called ‘Yui’, which, according to Toyota, is meant to “learn from the driver and deliver a personalized mobility experience.”

In other words, the LQ Concept wants to be your friend, an unnerving thought given where these things could end up. Perceived concerns aside, the LQ Concept is a good example of Toyota’s eye towards a future where a connection between the driver and the car is of paramount importance. We’re going to learn more about the LQ Concept in Tokyo, but, for now, chalk this one up to another concept whose purpose remains years ahead of its time.

Exterior

  • An evolved version of the Toyota Concept-i from CES 2017
  • Quirky design
  • Digital Micromirror Device is the true star of this section
  • Newly developed catalyst coating helps the environment
left right

If the Toyota LQ Concept looks familiar to you, it’s because you have seen it before. OK, maybe not in its current form, but back in 2017, Toyota presented the Concept-i at the Consumer Electronics Show with the same visual aesthetics. The LQ Concept builds on the Concept-i’s design, largely carrying over the concept’s avantgarde design and adding a spate of new technologies to keep it fresh and in line with 2019 concept car expectations.

The LQ Concept is an evolution of the Concept-i in so many ways.

Put them side-by-side and you’ll notice the difference between the two. One looks like an excellent first draft. The other looks like an improved version of the first draft, complete with a more polished design and a lot more color that creates the kind of vibrancy that you don’t see in the first concept. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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Stylistically, it’s the same concept, right down to the overall shape and the weird, teardrop-like panel at the back that covers the rear wheels entirely. The design of the rear section also draws plenty of similarities with the Concept-i, specifically the oval lighting setup that doubles as a digital screen and the flakey triangle design bits that cover enough significant real estate to actually matter.

In terms of its design, the LQ Concept fits the bill of a modern concept car. Just don’t expect Toyota to build something like it in the near future. See, the LQ Concept’s futuristic exterior isn’t the real star of the show. You can even argue that it’s merely a role player, ceding star status to all the new technologies that Toyota is presenting with the concept at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.

Most of these technologies, including the Yui artificial intelligence system, can be found in the interior, but Toyota did spare a few nifty inventions for the exterior, specifically the Digital Micromirror Device.
2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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The Digital Micromirror Device has such a sophisticated-sounding name, doesn’t it? Well, it sounds sophisticated because it actually is sophisticated, The device itself is embedded into the LQ Concept’s circular headlights, and, according to Toyota, it can turn on as many as one million mirrors to project certain figures on the road as communication tools with pedestrians and other cars nearby. It’s a technology that other automakers have also been developing, most notably Mercedes-Benz and its Digital Light tech that functions in a largely similar manner as Toyota’s DMD.

Another interesting feature is something Toyota managed to cook up to help, of all things, the environment. The LQ Concept comes with a newly developed catalyst coating that decomposes ozone into oxygen on the radiator fan, allowing ozone near the ground surface, a cause of photochemical smog, to be decomposed as the vehicle moves.

Toyota even scienced the business out of this technology, saying that the next-level coating can purify up to 60 percent of the ozone contained in 1,000 liters of air over the course of an hour drive.

It’s not the kind of technology you’d expect from a car, but since we are talking about the future of the entire automobile industry, no new scientific development is too far out of reach if there’s a useful application for it in the market.

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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Together, the DMD and this new coating are good examples of what makes the LQ Concept important for Toyota’s future. The actual show car isn’t the star of the show; it’s the technologies that it hosts, some of which could end up on future Toyota models down the road. The Digital Micromirror Device could be one of them, and so is this new-age, environment-leaning coating. That said, the big Kahuna — the real showcase technology — in this regard can be found in the interior.

Interior

  • Augmented Reality Heads-Up Display
  • State-of-the-art dashboard and instrument cluster
  • Roof and floor mat areas = intuitive communications platforms
  • Yui artificial intelligence system
2019 Toyota LQ Concept Interior
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Somewhat surprisingly, the interior of the Toyota LQ Concept looks more subdued than the exterior of the Concept-i. Perhaps that’s Toyota’s way of ditching all the latter’s gimmicks in favor of a more presentable interior aesthetic that speaks to what could be a plausible design trait for some of Toyota’s future production models. There’s a lot more real-world nuance in the cabin design of the LQ Concept. The steering wheel, for example, looks a lot more conventional than the gaming console-looking steering wheel that Toyota used on the Concept-i. The dashboard in the LQ Concept has more depth to it, too. The layout is still the same and the flaky liveries make their way on both sides of the dashboard as opposed to the Concept-i where you could only see them on the side of the driver. The dashboard and meters are displayed using organic OLEDs, though, while the entire instrument panel design wraps around the driver, ensuring maximum visibility.

One of the most important technologies that Toyota is currently developing also makes an appearance inside the LQ Concept.

The Augmented Reality Head’s Up Display (AR-HUD) is located right in front of the driver, but instead of appearing in a small display similar to what we’re used to in today’s cars, the AR-HUD uses augmented reality to expand the entire information display area over the scenery seen through the windshield.

Important driving information like lane warnings, road signs, and even navigation can be accessed in a three-dimensional manner. Toyota says the screen display is equivalent to 230 inches (19 feet) and has a depth of 7 meters (23 feet) to 41 meters (134.5 feet) ahead of the vehicle. These numbers and the application to the real world are astounding and, admittedly, pretty hard to explain. So think of the movie Minority Report instead. There’s a lot of what that movie showed from a heads-up display perspective that applies to Toyota’s AR-HUD.

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Interior
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It’s not an understatement to say that the LQ Concept is embedded with some of the most advanced technologies that Toyota has developed as it relates to future mobility and automobile autonomy. Toyota even found ways to weaponize the concept’s roof and floor mat areas, turning them into intuitive communications platforms that can share information between the vehicle and passengers. There are embedded lighting displays that release different colors to indicate automated or manual driving mode, and there are also footwells that illuminate to indicate which passenger the car’s artificial intelligence system is addressing.

Speaking of which, this is why the Toyota LQ Concept is Tokyo Motor Show-bound. It’s not going to the auto show for any other reason than to introduce Yui to the world. So, who is Yui exactly?

Yui is Toyota’s new artificial intelligence system, created in part to push Toyota’s goals of creating a relationship between its cars and the people that will own them in the future.

We’re not just talking about surface-level relationships here; we’re talking about personal relationships wherein Yui can provide you real-time information on topics it knows would be of interest to you.

Among many other developed and yet-to-be-developed functions, Yui can also play a certain type of music depending on where you are in your drive. It can also activate in-seat functions to raise your road awareness and engage with you through interactive voice communications. To make things even more interesting, Toyota says that it’s still working on developing new functions for its AI system. What those new functions are could run the gamut of what’s possible to the point that you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re getting romantic advice from Yui sooner than later.

Drivetrain

  • Unidentified electric powertrain
  • Level 4 autonomy
  • Automated Valet Parking System
2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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The Toyota LQ Concept doesn’t rely on an internal combustion engine. It doesn’t even rely on a plug-in hybrid setup. Instead, the LQ Concept is powered by an electric powertrain whose details Toyota did not reveal. About the only thing the Japanese automaker said is that the concept’s all-electric setup has a range of about 186 miles. It won’t exactly set the news feeds on fire with those estimates, but 186 miles is still an impressive number for a city car concept that’s unlikely to make it to production, now or in the near future.

Hardly surprising, right?

The LQ’s concept stature means that automakers can run their imaginations to the ground without real-world repercussions from critics in the business.

It is fitting that Toyota would adopt this approach; if you’re promoting a concept vehicle that won’t arrive for at least a few more years — if it does at all — an all-electric setup is the way to go, especially one that’s pegged as a small urban ride that’s also equipped with an artificial intelligence system, among other state-of-the-art technologies.

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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While it is a little wishful thinking to imagine a production version of the LQ Concept with Level 4 autonomy, the latter is a technology that Toyota is seriously developing for future models that will make it into production. Consider the LQ Concept as a table-setter in that regard. It’s important enough, at least in Toyota’s mind, that it would recreate and improve a two-year-old concept with all these new tech bits to look forward to.

One of these new technologies is the Automated Valet Parking System that Toyota developed together with Panasonic Corporation.

The system effectively eliminates the time-consuming task of looking for parking spots.

Instead of that menial task, the AVPS allows a car with Level 4 autonomy capability to drop off the driver and passengers in a pre-determined drop-off spot and then automatically drive to an assigned parking space. All of this is happening without the driver in the car, which begs the question: what’s Toyota’s vision for this particular technology? It all starts with an on-vehicle system that relies on a suite of cameras, sonar, radar, 2D road mapping, and parking lot cameras all working hand-in-hand to create a setup that would make the lives of car owners so much easier in the future.

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, that’s for sure. But for now, Toyota’s painting a promising future, one that heavily promotes electrification and autonomous driving as bedrocks of its future model lineup. It’s not going to happen overnight and I’m confident that a production version of the LQ Concept is not going to arrive anytime soon. But that’s not the point of the concept. We shouldn’t look for a production version of the LQ; we should be looking forward to real-world applications of all the technologies it has, including the holy grail that is Level 4 (and Level 5) autonomy.

Final Thoughts

2019 Toyota LQ Concept Exterior
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The Toyota LQ Concept is one of the most intriguing prototypes I’ve seen in a while. On the surface, the car’s design is what you’d expect from a concept. It’s provocative and curious and all those things. But that’s not the reason the LQ could go down as a bellwether concept for Toyota. There’s a good chance that we might not even see it again. What’s intriguing about this concept is the amount of new technology — or promise of new technologies — that Toyota packed in it.

Whether we’ll see these techs used and applied for production use is a question that only Toyota can answer. But the fact that we’re even asking these questions means that Toyota might be on to something here. I’m all for it, folks. I’m all for electrification. I’m all for autonomous driving. I’m all for Level 4 autonomy. Heck, I’m all for the Digital Micromirror Device. I’m all for it. Let’s just hope that Toyota delivers.

  • Leave it
    • How much of the concept will end up as empty promises?
    • It’s just a concept
    • Won’t be available anytime soon, if ever

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