Test Drive Pilot Impression Talk ~ Part 2

Test Drive Pilots

The latitude of urban mobility is truly poised to grow in leaps and bounds.
Test Drive Pilots boarded their i-ROADs and took the big city by storm. They experienced parking lots
and battery charging far different from normal cars, all the time steadily coming to grips
with a diverse range of new motoring situations. All this prompts the core question of what types of changes emerged
in the perspectives and awareness of these drivers. In this installment, we focus in on Mr. Hashimoto
– who stood out for logging the top driving distance among all of the Phase 1 Test Drive Pilots.
Mr. Hashimoto was delighted to have the opportunity to offer candid opinions on his impressions
and feelings during the roughly one-month period that he took the wheel of his i-ROAD.

image003-compressorMr. Hashimoto charging up his i-ROAD in the underground parking garage at the Ark Hills building complex – a favorite place to park which is nearby his place of work as well.

Test Driving the i-ROAD, for a Remarkable Boost in Lifestyle Latitude

Mr. Hashimoto is the Japan sales representative for a U.S. financial related systems company. About this experience, the first thing he mentioned was that the single greatest change sensed upon piloting an i-ROAD around Tokyo was the remarkable increase in his “lifestyle latitude.” He reports that the distance from his home to office can be normally covered in around 30 minutes, whether using public transportation or on foot. Traveling by i-ROAD, however, definitely slashed that commute, enabling the extra time to be used as pleased. What’s more, because the i-ROAD offers far more nimble mobility than regular cars, Mr. Hashimoto was able to dash home to have lunch with his kids during their summer vacation and otherwise circulate around far easier and with greater freedom than before.

A particularly key attraction he pointed out, meanwhile, was the “Tomehodai” (park as much as you like) service, which offers fixed-rate parking at some 200 lots in Tokyo’s Minato and Shibuya wards. In Mr. Hashimoto’s words: “When parking my car in coin-operated lots, regardless of where I went or what I was doing, the thought about how much time had elapsed was constantly running around my mind. With “Tomehodai” the fee is fixed, totally eliminating such concerns. That’s a big boost in convenience.”

image005-compressor (1)Many idea occurred him in the test drive.

image005-compressorMr. Hashimoto prepares to leave the lot. The way he masterfully put the i-ROAD through its paces, much like an extension of his own extremities, left a truly vivid impression.

In that regard, the Open Road Project is now planning to offers an app for parking lot bookings. On that matter, Mr. Hashimoto readily voiced new ideas about parking and stopping. “I find the value of being able to reserve parking extremely high. I mean, it’s really a shame to have to go to so much trouble looking a parking place after you’ve just managed to shorten the time its takes to drive there. To increase parking spaces for the i-ROAD, meanwhile, I think it would be good to develop a scheme making it easier for both those lending the spaces and those parking in them to understand the electric fees involved in use for charging, as well as the parking rates themselves. For the lenders, since there is ample open space in most lots, being able to rent that area out as-is would add up to more money. That would certainly be a welcome touch. I also believe it would be a kick to have i-ROAD users personally tote around “Open Road Project” business cards, thereby mounting a grassroots campaign to pioneer greater numbers of such small area parking spaces.”

A Rush of Insights, Prompting Creative

As passionate as he was, Mr. Hashimoto also pointed out an issue with regard to charging. “In my parking lot at home, I previously installed both 200-volt and 100-volt sockets. That was because I foresaw, if I may say so myself, the coming era of electric vehicles. As a result, I was able to charge the i-ROAD without any problem whatsoever. But even so, when I drove around town I constantly found myself fretting about how much charge was left in the battery. There is an app for use in finding battery-charging stations, but the number of such spots remains limited. In that sense, even if you did end up running out of power, it would be nice to be able to remove the battery to recharge it, or push the car to keep on going. In addition to that, I would prefer a gauge indicating the actual percentage of charge remaining in the battery, rather than the current scale indicator.” As if tuning in to this request, an application designed to indicate the remaining life in i-ROAD batteries with a percentage gauge is being readied as we speak. This, we feel confident, will render it possible to enjoy piloting the i-ROAD with even greater comfort and peace of mind.

Based on the awareness obtained through this real “i-ROAD experience,” a wealth of ideas spring to mind. This stance by Mr. Hashimoto was also manifested on the i-ROAD instrument panel. “With the current i-ROAD lacking any onboard sound system, I put in USB speakers and played radiko, Apple Music and other music sources from my iPhone. In addition to music, smartphones can also be utilized to display maps, navigation apps or other features. In view of that, why not further simplify the instrument panel itself, and use the connection with smartphones to display vehicle information and other data?” Carrying along your own personalized dashboard, in a manner of speaking. But Mr. Hashimoto wasn’t done yet. He also came up with the following brainchild. “How about arranging things so that speakers can be attached to the instrument panel? Linkage through USB would make it possible to charge, and I also recommend the great sound that’s produced. That will also render it easier to hear the navigation system sounds too.”

Another genuine delight of the i-ROAD Test Drive Pilot experience is the steady stream of proposals from the perspective of users that come to mind. From that point of view, what lies ahead for the Open Road Project may very well be an exciting crossroads of the ideas and ideals emerging in the mind’s eyes of the Pilots. Test Drive Pilot recruiting continues. We warmly encourage all drivers who feel that such an experience is right up their alley to take part in 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

TEXT BY Keisuke Kagiwada (contributor)

ISSUED : 16 October 2015