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Toyota’s LQ concept has A.I. tech that knows when you’re stressed

They may be inanimate objects, but cars can have personalities. The unique way a car responds to its driver can create a bond between human and machine. But that doesn’t mean future autonomous cars will be anonymous appliances, Toyota believes. Debuting at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, the Toyota LQ concept is a self-driving car that uses technology to a build a personal connection with its user.

“In the past, our love of cars was built on their ability to take us to distant places and enable our adventures,” Daisuke Ido, LQ development leader, said in a statement. “With the LQ, we are proud to propose a vehicle that can deliver a personalized experience, meet each driver’s unique mobility needs, and build an even stronger bond between car and driver.”

The all-electric LQ is an updated version of the Toyota Concept-i, which first appeared at CES 2017. Like its predecessor, the LQ features an artificial intelligence personal assistant called Yui. Vehicle occupants can “talk” to Yui to control various vehicle functions, and the tech can also monitor a person’s levels or stress or alertness. It can use a combination of lighting, climate control settings, and even fragrances to lower a person’s stress level, according to Toyota.

The LQ was designed for SAE Level 4 autonomous driving, meaning it is capable of driving without any human assistance, but still has a backup steering wheel and pedals. The car also features an automated parking system that allows vehicle occupants to get out and let the car search for a parking space on its own. The system also maximizes space in parking lots by letting cars park very close together, according to Toyota.

Because the LQ was designed for occasional manual driving, it also has some tech features designed around human drivers. An augmented reality head-up display projects information onto the windshield, and the seats were designed to help keep a person alert when the car is in manual mode. Built-in air bladders add back support, and the seat ventilation system blows cool air. Setting can be changed to help the driver relax when the car is in autonomous mode.

The LQ is just a concept car, and thus won’t go into series production. But it will get more real-world use than the average concept. Toyota will conduct public test drives in Japan between June 2020 and September 2020. The LQ’s predecessor, the Concept-i, will also be used in the torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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