Test Drive Pilots | 2016.5.24

"i-ROAD Touring" Reports (Phase 7 Test Drive Pilot Version)

The reactions to this idea were upbeat, with a steady stream of Test Drive Pilots urging the run to take place. These Pilots, who up to that point had largely exchanged reports on their "Lives with the i-ROAD" one-on-one, gathered under the same roof to plan the touring. It was decided that the drive would take place on April 29, the final day of the test drive period. Gathering at a certain location near Harajuku Station, where the touring was set to commence, were the Phase 7 Pilots and some of their family members as well. Clearly, all of them were raring to go. Waiting for the starting signal, they exchanged notes on their experiences with the i-ROAD up to then, snapped commemorative photos and otherwise pleasantly passed the time.   At last, the time to hit the road arrived. Bidding farewell to well wishers with calls of "See you in a bit," the row of five colorful i-ROAD cars took to the road, one after another. The time was early afternoon, on a national holiday, with the cars cruising down bustling Meijidori Street on their way to Shibuya. Manifesting the inherent strengths of the i-ROAD, the units moved effortlessly along the narrow road bordering the local train line, heading for the trendy Daikanyama quarter. Seeing the Pilots fluidly negotiate hairpin turns and other challenges without a second thought, the staffers of the project Secretariat could also barely contain their joy and admiration.     Descending Dogenzaka Hill, richly bathed in the sparkling green colors of the new early summer leaves, the caravan emerged from the lively scene around the "scramble" intersection in Shibuya renowned for its diagonal crosswalks. With that, they geared up for the final stretch to the goal line back in Harajuku. Plenty of people along the way instinctively raised their cameras to capture images of the colorful i-ROAD fleet. Waiting for the traffic lights to change, some of the Pilots also took a few moments to chat with passersby, shoot commemorative photos or otherwise kick back.     The touring escapade sped by in no time at all. Standing around their trusty cars afterwards, the Pilots shared the highlights and impressions of the day's outing. In the midst of this buoyant and happy-go-lucky atmosphere, the touring run for our Phase 7 Test Drive Pilots came to a close.     "Although it was a bit embarrassing to be photographed so much, it felt pretty good overall. I smiled for the cameras time and time again!" "I'd like to be able to go on such drives while chatting with the other units. For that matter, I wanted to just keep on driving like that, with everyone out on the road together!" These were just a couple of the sentiments expressed by the participants at the end of the session. When all is said and done, this touring brainchild succeed in going one step beyond simply driving home the point of the i-ROAD as a handy means of mobility. It also gave the Pilots a taste of this innovative new vehicle as an effective "communication tool." With the end of this touring, the Phase 7 test-driving period also came to a close. Realizing that, the expressions on the faces of our Pilots appeared somewhat wistful, if not outright melancholy. During the month or so that the Pilots spent with these cars, the i-ROAD became far more than a mere means of getting around. It rose to the cherished presence of a genuine road sidekick and trusty companion for all of these drivers. PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida / Tomoyuki Kato ISSUED : 24 May 2016

read more

Test Drive Pilots | 2016.5.18

Totally Unique Riding Comfort – Not a Car, Not a Motorcycle!

  We conducted our interview at Mr. Edward's home, which is located in a quiet residential area of Tokyo. In the parking lot, sitting next to the family car, was a blue i-ROAD. The scene of that unit sandwiched compactly into an open niche in a parking lot is a sight unlikely with a vehicle other than the i-ROAD. Finding Tokyo difficult to drive around, largely due to a lack of parking spaces Finding Tokyo difficult to drive around, largely due to a lack of parking spaces "Ever since my i-ROAD arrived, I've used it for all commuting to the office, shopping and other daily driving needs. Just recently, I drove my own car again for the first time in a while. I was surprised at how heavy it felt.""I first came to Japan on a study program during my college days, and have basically lived here ever since. In the past, I got rid of a car that I owned because the roads in Tokyo were so congested and I could find few places to park. In fact, I decided to give up driving in Japan altogether! As time passed, I once again purchased a car around the time we bought a home. I must say that the road situation is better than it was in the old days, and we find it easier to drive around. With regard to parking, however, I still find things to be considerably inconvenient.""I first learned of the i-ROAD in the summer of last year, when I saw one of them in the parking lot in the Roppongi Hills complex. The design looked quite bold, along the lines of a supercar, and I noticed the Toyota logo. The innovative presence stuck in my mind, and when I got home I did some research. I learned that Toyota had launched what I found to be a very interesting project. When I read an article about how they were recruiting test drivers for the car, I instinctively pumped my fist in the air with joy. As you can expect, I wasted no time in applying to be part of the project.""The impact of that first impression was substantial, and when I actually drove the i-ROAD I was even more thrilled. It delivered totally unique riding comfort – not like that of a motorcycle, nor that of a regular car. If forced to describe that experience, I would say that it reminded me of the cockpit of the fighter jet games at video arcades! The way the body leans back and forth out on the road is great fun, and from the first day of the test period I knew I would never want to return my i-ROAD to Toyota!"   Driving the i-ROAD has led to previously unknown city scenes and encounters Driving the i-ROAD has led to previously unknown city scenes and encounters "At the office, I deliberately drive the i-ROAD to get lunch, drop by shopping districts on my way home and this and that. In other words, I'm so passionate about driving it around that I do everything I could to think up excuses and opportunities to take it out for a spin. The i-ROAD handles great on turns and for other maneuvers, making it fun to cruise down narrow side streets that I normally wouldn’t be able to drive. I’ve discovered new stores, seen great cherry trees in bloom and come upon other scenes for the very first time, simply because I was zipping around in my i-ROAD. I've been lucky, in that sense, because the test-driving period just happened to overlap with the cherry blossom viewing season this year.""When going out on longer drives, I take advantage of 'Small Space Parking.' With plenty of such spaces available around the places I wanted to go, I've been able to arrive and park at those locations without any trouble or stress. Among the extra services offered for the i-ROAD, meanwhile, I find the 'SOUND-X' to be particularly nice. This is the first time I've ever experienced driving with the rhythm of road sounds filling the cabin, which I find quite invigorating. One of my personal hobbies involves making music, and piloting the i-ROAD with the SOUND-X on reminds me of the heavy backbeat of hip-hop tunes. If possible, I like to try my own hand at producing some sounds for this service!""I feel the i-ROAD would also be a nice fit for the environment in my hometown of London. As London is a city with much rain, I think an i-ROAD car sharing service would catch on and be widely supported by the local residents. For me, though, I can't imagine sharing the i-ROAD with anyone! I want to own a unit all my own! Perhaps because this car seems to move right in unison with the body of the driver, the more I operate it the more attached I become! For me, the ideal combination would be to have an i-ROAD on hand for short-distance drives around where I live, while keeping a separate car for taking trips and other extended driving. The more I talk about it, the harder it becomes for me to think of having to return my i-ROAD! If they decide to put this car on the market, I certainly hope they call me up before anyone else!" As he discussed the i-ROAD, Gareth Edwards seemed to grow more and more passionate. Exclaiming how great certain features are, things he'd like to see added and other comments, he is definitely the source of a valuable stream of constructive comments for i-ROAD developers. Cars, by their very definition, should be vehicles that furnish people with fun and excitement. Our interview with Gareth Edwards served to bring home this basic message once again. TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor) PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida ISSUED : 18 May 2016

read more

Test Drive Pilots | 2016.4.18

Phase 7 i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots ready to roll!

In late March, as the cherry trees in Tokyo were coming into bloom, a training session was held for the Phase 7 group of i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots. The program began with detailed explanations of how to operate the vehicle, the SOUND-X feature and other aspects of this mini mobility car, followed by the first get-together with the i-ROAD itself. On this occasion, it was not only the adult Pilots who appeared totally captivated with the sight of these vehicles. A number of children along for the ride were also clearly fascinated by the i-ROAD's appearance. There was a definite sense of pride and joy enveloping these parent-child pilot teams at the prospect of being among the first to set foot in this futuristic automotive concept. Following participation in the training session, the Phase 7 Pilots began their lifestyles with the i-ROAD from early April. At the Project Office, we are already getting reports of the "i-ROAD for Two" version being driven in Setagaya Ward as well, the fun of using the SOUND-X feature out on the road and other interesting episodes. Based on this information, we will continue to furnish regular updates on the various different aspects of this project. In late March, as the cherry trees in Tokyo were coming into bloom, a training session was held for the Phase 7 group of i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots. The program began with detailed explanations of how to operate the vehicle, the SOUND-X feature and other aspects of this mini mobility car, followed by the first get-together with the i-ROAD itself. On this occasion, it was not only the adult Pilots who appeared totally captivated with the sight of these vehicles. A number of children along for the ride were also clearly fascinated by the i-ROAD's appearance. There was a definite sense of pride and joy enveloping these parent-child pilot teams at the prospect of being among the first to set foot in this futuristic automotive concept. Following participation in the training session, the Phase 7 Pilots began their lifestyles with the i-ROAD from early April. At the Project Office, we are already getting reports of the "i-ROAD for Two" version being driven in Setagaya Ward as well, the fun of using the SOUND-X feature out on the road and other interesting episodes. Based on this information, we will continue to furnish regular updates on the various different aspects of this project. ISSUED : 18 April 2016

read more

Test Drive Pilots | 2016.3.15

Phase 6 i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots Off and Driving!

In February, the aforementioned i-ROAD training session was held for the Phase 6 Test Drive Pilots in Tokyo. Once again, various different volunteers gathered for briefing, including several mother-child combinations as well. After hearing an explanation about how to operate the car, parking applications and other basic information, the Pilots were ready to finally climb aboard their trusty i-ROAD cars. With that, exclamations of surprise and awe emerged from the cabins of the i-ROADs out on the track. In fact, the area was engulfed in a bright and joyous atmosphere, as if spring had suddenly arrived in Tokyo ahead of schedule. Following participation in the training session, the Phase 6 Pilots began their lifestyles with the i-ROAD from early March. At the Project Office, we are already receiving reports of their experiences with the “Tomehodai” (park as much as you like) service designed exclusively for the i-ROAD, how shuttling children to the local kindergarten in the “i-ROAD for Two” is a magnet for attention and other interesting episodes. We’re certain that this marks the start of a steady stream of ongoing glimpses into the future of mobility achieved by this new group of i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots. In February, the aforementioned i-ROAD training session was held for the Phase 6 Test Drive Pilots in Tokyo. Once again, various different volunteers gathered for briefing, including several mother-child combinations as well. After hearing an explanation about how to operate the car, parking applications and other basic information, the Pilots were ready to finally climb aboard their trusty i-ROAD cars. With that, exclamations of surprise and awe emerged from the cabins of the i-ROADs out on the track. In fact, the area was engulfed in a bright and joyous atmosphere, as if spring had suddenly arrived in Tokyo ahead of schedule. Following participation in the training session, the Phase 6 Pilots began their lifestyles with the i-ROAD from early March. At the Project Office, we are already receiving reports of their experiences with the “Tomehodai” (park as much as you like) service designed exclusively for the i-ROAD, how shuttling children to the local kindergarten in the “i-ROAD for Two” is a magnet for attention and other interesting episodes. We’re certain that this marks the start of a steady stream of ongoing glimpses into the future of mobility achieved by this new group of i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots. ISSUED : 14 March 2016

read more

Test Drive Pilots | 2016.2.28

An Era of Savoring Original Delights in Cars as Well

Desire for a Front Panel with a Wood Grain Design Desire for a Front Panel with a Wood Grain Design Arriving at Mr. Arai’s studio, a venue with the rich bouquet of wood in the air, a white i-ROAD was parked right outside. We immediately saw that this particular unit was equipped with a front panel different from the normal pattern. The designer of this panel was none other than Mr. Arai himself, the owner of “kaki8” – a shop specializing in order-made furniture. We wondered how Mr. Arai, a highly accomplished cabinetmaker, found the experience of customizing such a creation via use of a 3D printer. “When I was first informed that it would be all right to design my own front panel, I felt inspired to come up with something stylish. The process got off the ground by meeting with the designer, at which time I presented a few design concepts and specific patterns that I personally had in mind. The discussions that followed were used to expand those ideas into a more concrete image, leading to the decision to incorporate a “wood grain” design. At the same time, I told the designer that I wanted to steer clear of an overly realistic wood grain appearance, instead requesting a more “pop” looking wood grain made primarily from resin materials. I really wanted to stick to my personal tastes on that front (laugh). Being told that the work would involve the creation of 3D data sounded a bit tricky to me at first. But it turned out to be far easier than I imagined, with the image given concrete shape and form once I clearly communicated the concept.” After that, Mr. Arai stayed in touch with the designer through e-mail messages, as they collaborated to work up and finalize the design. Mr. Arai reports that he coordinated with the opinions of the designer, a professional in that area, on the overall pattern, while firmly conveying the points that he particularly wanted to see reflected in the finished version. “The work of bringing tangible form to the original image, while compromising on what could and what could not be achieved technically, was a surprisingly fresh and enjoyable experience. Since the lion’s share of my own work consists of reflecting the meticulous opinions and desires of customers in the creative process, I was a bit worried about coming on too strong with my own preferences in this project (laugh). Toward the end of the undertaking, however, there was the sense of working together as a team to come up with the final product. As a result, entering the final painting stage I felt perfectly at ease in asking for the designer’s ideas in what colors might be best to use. I can honestly say that, thanks in great part to working together in that way, I was totally satisfied when I set eyes on the completed work (laugh). While the colors are bright they look just fine on the i-ROAD, and above all else it felt good to have produced something so original. A creation different from anything else out on the road, that is.” The Idea of Changing Front Panels much like a Smartphone Case The Idea of Changing Front Panels much like a Smartphone Case According to Mr. Arai, when the original front panel was installed on his i-ROAD: “It reminded me of changing the case on a smartphone.” “To tell the truth, I’m the type of person who prefers cars in their original and genuine form. That’s based on the thinking that since the design has already been scrupulously worked out and completed, I feel no burning desire to add anything else to the mix. However, observing the installation of the newly designed front panel on this occasion, rather than playing around with the design of a car, I came away with an impression akin to changing the case on a smartphone. While attaching such a panel still requires its fair share of time and work, I look forward to the day when designers will render it a snap for anyone to switch from one front panel to another with no effort to speak of. In terms of my own work, it could be likened to changing the cover on a chair, for example. Even if the legs are the same, the character and expression of the chair can be completely altered by what fabric is used as the upholstery. It would be wonderful if the i-ROAD could also become a car capable of manifesting our own personal tastes and ideas in that way.”  Mr. Arai’s original front panel – the playful mismatch between a vivid yellow color scheme resembling colors used in toys and the portrayal of a sophisticated wood grain pattern. The i-ROAD outfitted with this cover exudes its own special casual and chic ambience, with Mr. Arai’s own tastes clearly shining through. The genuine joy, in short, of being a total original. With greater numbers of such original i-ROAD creations out on the streets, we could look forward to our cities becoming more lively and showy. TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor) PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida ISSUED : 28 February 2016

read more

Test Drive Pilots | 2016.2.12

“i-ROAD for Two” Mothers’ Talk
~ Bringing Together – Two Test Drive Pilots ~

i-ROAD is a Car that Just Begs to be Taken Out on the Road i-ROAD is a Car that Just Begs to be Taken Out on the Road Several weeks had passed since these ladies introduced the “i-ROAD for Two” cars into their respective daily routines – a first in Japan. Both said that they had finally gotten used to the ins and outs of driving this car, and were currently quite smitten with the i-ROAD lifestyle. To begin, we asked them about the so-called “warm-up period” in getting used to their new sets of wheels. Uno: I had only driven a minicar in the past, and that was a long time ago. Considering the long blank, I anticipated a major struggle in growing accustomed to motoring around again. Surprisingly, though, I found the i-ROAD a snap to operate. Though Tokyo is known for its many narrow and winding streets, the i-ROAD was quite easy to handle and maneuver about, making it easy to negotiate such routes. I started out with practice runs near home, and in about a week was able to also take to bigger roads with confidence. Ozeki: I particularly like the sense of unity between car and driver that you get from driving the i-ROAD. That brought back memories of the sheer “joy of the road” that I experienced years ago when I rode a motorcycle. My original idea in applying to become a Test Drive Pilot was to infuse greater mobility into my daily routine. Now, I find myself increasingly motivated to take the car out simply to savor more of that “driving delight.” Uno:  I couldn’t agree more! I come up with shopping, chores and various other excuses to take the car out and about. I sometimes get up early in the morning just to enjoy a spin around the immediate area in the i-ROAD. For the very first time, I’ve become aware of just how much fun driving really can be. It certainly appears that these two mothers are reaping ample pleasure from their i-ROAD runs. But how have their kids reacted? Ozeki: Every time we get in the car my son squeals with joy, and really teams with me in getting the most of our rides around town. He likes the i-ROAD so much he’s nicknamed the car “Ai-chan.” I’m starting to worry that he may cry his eyes out when the test drive period concludes and we have to return Ai-chan where she came from! Uno: I guess that boys just love any type of vehicle. My daughter, perhaps because she’s a girl, tends to doze off whenever we start to drive around. I guess the gentle vibration and swaying about feels good. Then again, I should also mention that the i-ROAD has been a hit with her, as well as her friends. She invites some of them over to take part in the test-driving. When the mother of one of those friends asked where she had gone on the drive, the girl answered proudly: “To the future!” The i-ROAD is Great for Shuttling Kids to and From Kindergarten! The i-ROAD is Great for Shuttling Kids to and From Kindergarten! For mothers of young children, a key part of driving duties consists of trips to and from the local day nursery or kindergarten. Uno: This is really a great help. I feel particularly happy that I was selected to test-drive the i-ROAD when the weather turns rainy. Before now I’d shuttled our daughter back and forth by bicycle, forcing us to walk about 15 minutes each way on rainy days. With the i-ROAD, we can cover that distance in no time at all, rain or shine! Ozeki: I couldn’t agree more, and for that matter, it makes things much easier on cold days too. By bicycle, meanwhile, I would generally go straight home after picking up our son. But with the i-ROAD, I have the option and leeway to do some shopping on the way back, go for a spin or partake in other activities. I can truly say that the i-ROAD has expanded my activity sphere. Uno: In fact, the kindergarten that our daughter attends bans access by car onto its grounds. Despite that, when the director got a look at my i-ROAD, she waved me in, saying: “There’s no problem with something that size!” When driving their kids to and from kindergarten, how have fellow mothers and others in the vicinity reacted to the i-ROAD? Ozeki: Perhaps because of the strong visual impact, there seems to be a tendency to refer to me as “the Ozeki-san who drives THAT car.” I’m always getting requests for permission to take snapshots, and I hear plenty of comments about how they hope the i-ROAD will be available on the marketplace soon! Uno: People often stop to talk when I’m driving around town. Just recently, an elderly person commented: “I bet I could even drive a car like that!” I’ve spoken with a surprisingly large number of people who find normal size cars a bit too intimidating, but would like to try driving something like the i-ROAD. Getting Out the Message that the i-ROAD is also Easy on the Pocketbook! Getting Out the Message that the i-ROAD is also Easy on the Pocketbook! As mothers entrusted with the household finances, electric charges are naturally a source of concern for both of these lady Test Drive Pilots. Then again, they report little change in electric bills after introducing the i-ROAD into their daily lives. Uno: Since I’ve exclusively charged my i-ROAD unit at home, I was a bit concerned about the impact on our electric bill. So it was a big relief when I examined the statements and found there has been little significant change. I definitely want to tell other potential driver mothers about this benefit. Ozeki: That’s right, and perhaps because of that, I find lots of parking lots and spaces around town that I am willing to pay the electric charging costs for parking the i-ROAD Uno: I hope such exclusive parking lots will increase Recently, I’ve been using smartphone apps to locate parking lots and map out the routes there before leaving home. It would be even easier and convenient to drive such cars, however, if there were more lots where you can charge them up while parking. Ozeki: I want to believe that there will be more such parking lots by the time the i-ROAD is actually made available to the general public. For the time being, though, I just want to get the maximum satisfaction out of my experiences in the i-ROAD throughout my stint as a Test Drive Pilot. Our “i-ROAD for Two” Mothers’ Talk was an exchange of pleasant and tranquil experiences and ideas throughout. Leaving a particularly keen impression was the mellow and soothing smiles upon comments about how easy the i-ROAD makes it for these ladies to shuttle their kids around. In that spirit, we hope such maternal smiles are destined to expand beyond Shibuya Ward to other wards and municipalities as well from here on! TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor) PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida ISSUED : 5 February 2016

read more