The bi-annual Tokyo Motor Show is a perfect snapshot of the auto industry’s ever-closer relationship to technology. The big three shifts coming down the road are EVs, autonomous driving and connected cars, and it was the latter theme that underpinned this, the 45th Tokyo show. Although usurped by start-ups in China and the US in recent years, the Japanese industry can still lay claim to being the world’s most sophisticated, both in terms of manufacturing superiority and a welcoming attitude towards technology that speeds up innovation and adoption.
The show’s strapline was ‘Beyond the Motor’, and the emphasis was very much on how cars are used and configured and not how they were actually powered; EVs and hybrids are pretty much taken for granted at this point, but connectivity is the final piece in the jigsaw. A futuristic set of interactive displays used video game tech to illustrate the connected future, turning the car from an individual space into a social one, as well as pooling the information gathered by traffic and feeding it back into your individual demands. For example, feedback from cars already stuck in city centre traffic would be sent back to drivers setting out from the suburbs and give them a chance to re-route or even re-consider their journey.
The big car makers showed a huge variety of concepts, from single-person transporters to sleek traditional saloons and cars that docked with private homes, all reinforcing the message that mobility is a holistic, all-encompassing state of mind, and not just about traditional family car ownership. VR presentations were ubiquitous, with simulations offering up ways to experience autonomous driving, information presentation, even facial recognition systems that detected whether a driver was alert or falling asleep at the wheel. The industry’s myriad suppliers were out in force, beavering away turning the prosaic bits of cars into signposts to the future, from lights to seats to in-car entertainment. The occasional quirky outlier – Yamaha’s bike-riding Motorbot, Takayama Cars’ bizarre telescopic mobile kitchen car – add richness to the stew. Here’s our pick of the best of Tokyo Motor Show.