For some, a car is nothing more than a means of transportation, moving people or goods from one place to another and not much different than a train or aircraft. At Toyota, we see a car as something more – a feeling we know people share around the world. Indeed, the Japanese language has a word to describe this emotion – “Aisha,” or “My car, I love it.”
Why is this? What is it about cars that makes people love them?
We believe the relationship with our car is fundamentally different from so much else in our lives. It’s a safe, personal space that provides a comfortable and relaxing environment. It grows and changes to reflect who we are. The interior space, with features such as audio or entertainment systems, and the external appearance of the vehicle itself can be customized to express our unique identity. At a more social level, cars belong to families and are sometimes passed on to the next generation. They grow with us; we don’t drive the same car at age 16, 20, 30, 40, or 60.
Each of these changes helps to build a deep and meaningful relationship between a car and its owner. Our car becomes the only one like it in the world: a unique reflection of our own life. We pamper our cars, abuse them, and use them extensively. They carry our things and bear the marks of our relationships: a sticker here, a coffee stain there, and that time where we made a tear in the back seat and never bothered to get it fixed. Over time, a car stops being just a mode of transportation and becomes something we love.
For Toyota, the relationship between cars and people is fundamental to everything we do, including our research into automated vehicles. We use the word “teammate” to describe our concept for automated driving. It reflects our belief car and driver must help each other to make driving safe, comfortable, and fun. Even in a future where driving has been automated, we believe this relationship means cars will continue to be loved and that automated driving technologies can bring cars and people even closer together.
What does this relationship mean in practice? When it comes to safety, driving skills don’t just differ between people; they vary over time for everyone as well. Experience, age, medical conditions, or simple fatigue can all change our capability on the road from moment to moment. That’s why Toyota designs automated driving technologies to meet these shifting needs, helping to support safe driving regardless of the condition of the driver.
Of course, there are also people who want a specific driving experience and expect the vehicle to perform the way they want, when they want. That may mean a sporty driving mode in some situations and a smooth ride in others. We believe advanced vehicle technologies should respect these unique and changing needs and respond with the capability that a driver desires while maintaining the appropriate level of safety support.
In short, Toyota believes cars should learn from their owners, becoming more loved as they meet their needs, and grow to reflect their unique tastes over the course of their lives together.