Toyota’s empathetic car of the future is there for you. You’ve had a frustrating day at work; it plays soft music and lowers the temperature. You’re lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood; it offers to take over the driving. You start to nod off at the wheel; it taps you on the shoulder and starts up a conversation.
This unconventional interplay between the driver and automobile is central to concept cars that Honda and Toyota unveiled at a technology conference in Las Vegas this week. In the not-so-distant future, vehicles will not only be safer or more efficient. They also will be our companions, watching our every move.
These cars, which exist today only as partially functional concepts, will use powerful artificial intelligence systems to memorize and store information about every passenger’s likes and dislikes, how they speak, and the places they frequent, all to make decisions the car feels are in the riders’ interest.
The auto industry’s pursuit of a hyper-personal experience comes as the very nature of automotive transportation is in flux. Many industry observers expect ride-sharing services will become more popular, with autonomous driving to follow. People may rely less on personal cars to get around, a prospect that is “going to change the business model of private car ownership dramatically,” said Karl Brauer, a Kelley Blue Book analyst.