How will the “i-ROAD” urban-style personal mobility vehicle transform cities over the years to come?
To come up with viable answers to this query, the OPEN ROAD PROJECT participated in WXD (Wired by Design), a conference and workshop organized to examine today's true state-of-the-art designs. This effort consisted of two special events held in May and June.
Here, we report upon the presentation of Tomomi Otsuka, Director of the Toyota “Future Project Office,” delivered at Spiral Hall in the upscale Aoyama district of Tokyo as the second key leg in this project.
What is the philosophy of the “Future of Mobility” that is being steadily instilled in the i-ROAD?
“WXD (Wired by Design)” was a conference and workshop gathering held to pioneer new outlooks regarding the “designs” surrounding our everyday lives.
Convened as one phase in this effort was a conference entitled “Designers of the Future.”
Driven by advances in technology, the past image of designers as being expected to basically supply only the “designs” themselves is steadily falling out of favor. Under the new scenario, how should future designs be formulated? To address this vital question, designers active on the frontlines of the trade came forth with visions reflecting their own respective visions.
Tomomi Otsuka of the Toyota “Future Project Office,” who participated as one of the speakers, articulated personal feelings toward this project in a presentation structured to address the theme of “Designing Urban Mobility from Scratch.”
“Today, automobile mobility has become inconvenient in almost all cities.” The inspiration for development was rooted in this critical new awareness. Within Toyota, however, arguments were made for and against this proposition. The monitor test was undertaken as a measure aimed at breaking out of a sluggish and stalled debate in which no real progress was being made.
“Urban mobility with the i-ROAD is a delight.”
This was the response forthcoming from the monitor test. At the same time, however, numerous comments were received that raised concerns over potential issues down the road: “Though small in size, will it use the same parking lots as regular automobiles?” “Will it be necessary to worry about the battery all the time you’re driving?” In coming to grips with such worries, Otsuka arrived at a certain conclusion.
Namely: “In the current day and age, the need for makers is not only to design products, but rather design entire user experiences.”
This naturally leads to the question of just what “designing entire user experiences” really means. According to Otsuka, this is the vision of creating “prototypes that pioneer the future.”
Emerging from this concept was the brainchild of so-called “Small Space Parking,” in which charging outlets would be installed in cramped and unused spaces around cities for supply as parking slots. Also proposed was the “ROAD KITCHEN” idea of enabling users themselves to customize exterior parts; the “SOUND DRIVER” approach of mobilizing CAN data to transform actual city driving into running noise for enjoyment (scheduled to be presented at a later date) and other essential plan components in the OPEN ROAD PROJECT.
Otsuka brought the presentation to a close with the following astute conclusion and challenge: “Changing the cities themselves will be difficult. I am confident, however, that if we can change ourselves, the promise of the future will open up before our very eyes.”
Viewed on its own, the i-ROAD is a new mobility tool. The concept behind this tool, however, harbors vast potential for encouraging the reconsideration of the very significance of “design” as a behavioral action.
We can only imagine how the elucidation of this perspective at the “WXD” venue will emerge as a rippling wave destined to impact the creative instincts of those taking part in the conference, and what changes that will spur in their individual and collective awareness.
- WXD（Wired by design） Conference「Designers of The Future」
- Spiral hall @ Aoyama, Tokyo
ISSUED ： 4 August 2015
TEXT BY KEISUKE KAGIWADA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Tomoyuki Kato