Urban mobility is on its way to furnishing greater freedom and choice than ever before.
As the Test Drive Pilots board their trusty i-ROAD to maneuver around the streets of Tokyo, experiencing parking and recharging,
a world apart from standard automobiles and strutting their stuff in various different scenes, just how will their perceptions and awareness shift?
In this installment, we feature Mr. Yamane, who among the Phase 2 Test Drive Pilots stood out for his particularly passionate approach to getting the most out of the i-ROAD. That stance extended from analysis of his driving experiences to shooting images on state-of-the-art equipment, customized simulation and more.
Mr. Yamane took the time to share with us the impressions and candid views compiled during the month long test-drive run.
Motoring Sensations of the i-ROAD – Unique from all Other Vehicles
Among all our Phase 2 Pilots, Mr. Yamane was the hands-down top “distance driver,” logging an impressive 514 kilometers in his i-ROAD during the month. He posted images and reports of his high riding times on an SNS website used by the pilot group, winning keen attention for that track record.
Mr. Yamane, however, a true dyed-in-the-wool car buff, actually embraced no particularly high hopes for this project before actually boarding an i-ROAD.
At the Phase 2 Test Drive Pilot training session, photographing the i-ROAD with a camera equipped with a gimbal (special hand shake prevention tool).
“I first learned about the i-ROAD from an announcement for a special test drive event of WXD staged this May by WIRED magazine. I’ve been interested in cars and motorcycles since I was a kid, and actually ride a heavy-duty motorcycle as part of my everyday routine now. Therefore, I was excited by the prospects of an opportunity to get to know the i-ROAD, vigorously promoted as a groundbreaking new means of transportation, prior to its actual marketing, and applied to participate.
Before I began the test period, convinced that the i-ROAD would be pretty much the same as the 3-wheeler cars developed by other automakers up to now, I figured I knew what the driving sensation would be like. When I actually got behind the wheel, though, my impression changed dramatically.
First off, just the opposite of motorcycles, the car is engineered with rear-wheel-drive, generating a truly fresh new sensation during tight turns, leaning and other maneuvers. During the talk session at the event in May, my curiosity was truly aroused by a comment from the i-ROAD development coordinator (Akihiro Yanaka, Sports Vehicle Management Div. of Toyota Motor) to the effect that the car would never tip over.”
With that acting as the trigger, following the promotional event Mr. Yamane wasted no time in applying to become part of the Test Drive program. After succeeding in being selected as one of the Phase 2 Test Drive Pilots, he purchased a gimbal, a special camera shake prevention tool to help take more beautiful shots of the i-ROAD in action. After that and other thorough preparations, Mr. Yamane began his test-driving adventure.
Shooting Videos, Discovering New Routes ~ Drawing the Most Out of the i-ROAD’s Appeal
“Besides a handheld camera, I decided I also wanted to use GoPro for SNS uploading of scenes of me shooting videos of the i-ROAD. Being given this great opportunity to drive the car, I also wanted to enjoy myself the most I could. When I actually gave that a try, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the smooth movement of the car’s body makes it fairly easy to shoot videos without any blurring.”
Meticulously prepared in this way, Mr. Yamane made up his mind to truly enjoy the test period to the hilt. He drove the i-ROAD from his home in Oimachi to an event held at the Funabashi Auto Race track about 30 kilometers away, tried his hand at cruising around Haneda Airport and took on other challenges as well.
“When I let myself worry about whether or not the battery would hold its charge all the way to the Funabashi race track, it proved a bit tough to get into an adventurous state of mind. However, figuring it would be a waste not to take advantage of this rare chance, I decided to give it a try. While I charged the battery on the way to the track, on the return trip I found there was no particular need to charge it up again. I also recommend Haneda Airport as a drive destination. The route around the perimeter of the terminal is full of big curves, with the light traffic there during the nighttime making it a nice stretch for use in learning how to apply the brakes on curbs and slopes and otherwise appreciate the distinguishing characteristics of the i-ROAD. I certainly hope upcoming Test Drive Pilots will also give such stretches a run.
A photo uploaded by Mr. Namba, another one of the Phase 2 Test Drive Pilots.
“A simple do-it-yourself trick. When you yearn to drive with the window half or one-quarter open, just stick one of these suction cups onto the glass.”
Fascination of Seeing the Project Evolve on the Strength of Personal Ideas
Mr. Yamane also reports that he came away with a profound impression of his drives on narrow roads that only the i-ROAD can negotiate.
“I set out with the idea of using a ‘Tomehodai’ (park as much as you like, a service offering fixed-rate parking at some 200 spots in Tokyo’s Minato and Shibuya wards) lot in Shibuya, and found the road there extremely narrow. The particular lot is located in a place where regular cars simply cannot go. Even with a motorcycle, coming to a dead end would make it quite tough to back up and turn around. The design of the i-ROAD is just what’s needed to cruise around and park there with no hassles. Driving in Tokyo in a regular car can lead to all sorts of troubles – the high odds of getting caught in traffic jams, difficulties in parking and more. Compared to that, the i-ROAD is built at a size just right in so many ways.”
Besides the fun when driving, Mr. Yamane also mentioned how the vigorous postings on SNS by his fellow Test Drive Pilots were quite interesting as well.
“When I first joined the project, I imagined that the grasp of the experience would probably only be sufficient to prompt drivers to summarize their impressions of the car at the end of the one-month test drive period. As it turned out, I was very surprised at how brisk the exchanges between the Test Drive Pilots grew. For example, one of pilots, Mr. Namba, wanted to keep the air flowing into the car while driving. To achieve that, he bought some suction cups at a 100-yen shop to use in fixing the windows in an open position. That’s an idea I’m sure I would never have conceived on my own. I put that concept to work at once, further impressing upon me that the ability to instantly share such ideas underscores how we are all working together as a team to cultivate the i-ROAD.”
The certificate of completion presented to Phase 2 Test Drive Pilots – embellished with a photo posted personally by Mr. Yamane during the driving period.
There was also major endorsement of the approach adopted in this project of directly reflecting Pilot opinions at the development stage.
“When I utilized” ROAD KITCHEN”, a service that makes it possible to use 3D printers to make parts that fit your personal tastes, to create designs for front parts, it also was eye-opening to hear the others’ comment how they would like to infuse such touches on their cars. I think it would be great if more and more such opinions can be compiled, resulting not only in different designs but also in different driving sensations when the i-ROAD is eventually released on the marketplace. In that sense, I really hope that Test Drive Pilots from the different phases can all join in swapping their ideas and experiences from here on. Members of the Toyota Mirai Project Department also found our views quite interesting. It made a big impression on me to see them intently listen to the opinions of all Phase 2 Test Drive Pilots at the wrap-up meeting after the test drive period. It was a clear reflection of their determination to further evolve the i-ROAD from here on. It should also be pointed out that the opinions of the Phase 1 Pilots have been reflected in our charge app – yet another indication that the ideas of the individual Pilots are acting to power the evolution of i-ROAD as a source of collective wisdom. From the perspective of “joining hands to create,” this became a wonderful experience for me in every way.”
When asked what he would do if given the opportunity to operate the i-ROAD once again, Mr. Yamane promptly noted: “I’d want to drive to and around more places where normal motorcycles and cars simply can’t go.” Such feedback from Mr. Yamane, someone who feels charisma in the i-ROAD in no way inferior to his own beloved motorbike and has taken the time to compare and analyze the car with other vehicles, is precious indeed. It has definitely furnished valuable insights on various different fronts.
Test Drive Pilot recruiting continues. We warmly encourage all drivers who want to experience driving sensations available only behind the wheel of an i-ROAD to become a part of this innovative new mobility project!
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.
・Test Drive Pilot Impression Talk – Back number
Test Drive Pilot Impression Talk ~ Part 1 (Phase 1: Mr. Tashiro)
Test Drive Pilot Impression Talk ~ Part 2 (Phase 1: Mr. Hashimoto)
INTERVIEW BY Keita Fukasawa (contributor)
TEXT BY Yoko Sueyoshi (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Eiji Fukasaku
ISSUED ： 20 November 2015