The feeling is that urban mobility will come to be instilled with far greater latitude than what has been available to date.
The Test Drive Pilots maneuvered their i-ROAD units around the streets of Tokyo,
experiencing parking and recharging unlike the cars they have driven in the past and learning to deal with a truly wide range of situations.
As this came to pass, what types of changes emerged in their perspectives and awareness?
From among the Phase 1 Test Drive Pilots, in this report we place our focus on “Mr. Tashiro” – the owner/director of a certain Tokyo design office.
Here, Mr. Tashiro reflects on the month-long pilot drive experiment, offering candid takes on his experiences.
In front of the design office and gallery owned and operated by Mr. Tashiro.
Mr. Tashiro is an art director who runs his own design office in the Ebisu quarter of Tokyo (including a gallery on the first floor of the building).
this occasion, his primary use of the i-ROAD was for driving between his residence in Shinagawa and the office, which he reports turned out to be extremely pleasant.
On the other hand, he also developed some concerns with regard to parking space issues.
“Looking around the parking lot in my apartment complex, there are plenty of open spaces. If power sockets were installed at those spots, we would have a parking garage where the i-ROAD could be recharged. That, I feel, would lead to an increase in the number of i-ROAD users.”
Mr. Tashiro says that he found the “Tomehodai” (park as much as you like) service, which offers fixed-rate parking at some 200 lots in Minato and Shibuya wards, to be a “tremendous help.” He was particularly pleased with lots that allowed him to recharge the car while leaving it parked.
“If I became worried about the battery charge running low as I drove home, it was possible to drop by one of the parking lots in Toranomon Hills or Roppongi Hills and recharge the unit. If a “Tomehodai” lot were also available in the Shinagawa vicinity, it would be quite handy when I board the Shinkansen bullet train from Shinagawa Station to leave on business trips. Combining parking and recharging as a set package in such situations would be great, because I could also go ahead and recharge the battery while doing my shopping or other chores.”
Solar power panels installed on the building’s roof. The electricity generated here was used to recharge the i-ROAD.
This leads to the question of just how Mr. Tashiro recharged his i-ROAD.
“With electric vehicle (EV) use power sockets already installed at our office, I was able to plug in there.”
Mr. Tashiro reports that the trigger for adding such equipment was the installation cost subsidy system offered by the government as one phase of its policy promoting solar power generation. He says he made the move to add such infrastructure rooted in the view that the “age of electric vehicles may very well be just around the corner.”
He explains: “With power supplied from solar panels, during the daylight hours use is virtually cost-free. I would suggest giving the i-ROAD a solar roof, because that should make it possible to keep driving on the power of stored electricity even in areas where the car cannot be recharged.”
This does raise the idea of recharging with solar panels in cases when the power charge runs low. Despite the reality that the actual area of the i-ROAD car body is simply not large enough to recover the amount of solar power needed to actually run the vehicle, the driving of conventional cars would never prompt such brainstorms.
For his part, Mr. Tashiro also has experience with the “ROAD KITCHEN” service – in which 3D printers are used to customize i-ROAD parts.
Speaking from his unique perspective as a designer: “Because it is rather difficult to come up with trendy parts when working from scratch, it seems more feasible to choose from existing designs – much like selecting a smartphone case. Although I am a graphic designer myself, there is no shortage of areas in which going 3D seems certain to pose considerable hurdles.”
He continues: “Today, with the i-ROAD itself still a rare presence on the road, it is exciting to drive the car in its original state. Once there are more units in use, however, I’d really like to customize one of these cars to fit my own tastes. I mean, it’s definitely a rush to have some tell you that your i-ROAD looks so cute.”
Customizing the exterior with fashionable sensitivities. In that sense, one of the pleasures of driving the i-ROAD may very well come to consist of “changing clothes” to a design that is yours and yours alone – much like procuring an order-made suit.
Mr. Tashiro also took a few moments to forecast the future of the i-ROAD from his distinctive outlook as an entrepreneur:
“Located at the city center, it may turn out quite handy to keep one of these cars at your company. Besides the obvious convenience of putting it to use as a means of getting to meetings at the drop of a hat, placing the company name on the side would definitely stand out and provide an excellent means of publicity.”
When all is said and done, as a product, the i-ROAD resembles an origami paper folding. Using that metaphor, while today the car consists largely of a single strip of paper, bringing forth new forms from those origins will effectively empower people from numerous different cultures to speak out in voices that reflect their own special positions.
In fact, it may very well be your own personal voice that comes to add that “extra fold” to the mix. If you’re someone who sees yourself in that light, please consider becoming part of this project as a Test Drive Pilot.
Test Drive Pilot Recruitment Continues
For your information, the recruiting of Test Drive Pilots will be continued through the summer of 2016, spanning eight separate phases in all.
During this period as well, Pilot applications may be made at the “Test Drive Pilot” website.
Combining the knowledge and impressions of Toyota as the manufacturer and consumers as the drivers, the mission is being sustained and enhanced to amass a new collective wisdom. Please consider joining this exciting new project – an innovative endeavor sourced from the personal experiences of each individual participant.
TEXT BY Keisuke Kagiwada (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Tomoyuki Kato
ISSUED ： 4 September 2015