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A Concept Vehicle for One... Toyota's i-unit

Techstination feature for Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's a concept vehicle for one. Toyota's i-unit. Bloomberg Boot Camp, a report on today's technology. It sits upright at slow speeds….reclines in high speed mode….and looks more like a personal pod than a vehicle. Toyota has put its i-unit on display….a rechargeable, electric concept mode of transportation…made with plant fibres and other materials that are decomposable or recyclable. Driving it was fun….you accelerate and steer with a kind of whole hand joy stick. It is equipped with what Toyota calls Intelligent Transport System technology. I-units are aware of each other….and can't collide. The chief engineer responsible for the i-unit, Yoshiaki Kato says it is designed to be driven indoors and out. It can turn on a dime…much like a Segway. But Kato says that's where the comparison ends…

I think maybe some concepts are the same, it is a good vehicle, but I think to drive it you need a healthy body. This i-unit everyone can drive, from younger people to elder people."

Kato says because you are seated…and can travel both indoors and out…the i-unit may be ideal for people with disabilities. He says production of this kind of vehicle is quite a ways in the future. And about price, he says, think more along the lines of Toyota, not Lexus…

"Of course, when we produce this vehicle, price is very important. I think it's not so expensive. Maybe close to a small car or less than a small car."

The i-unit drew crowds at this year's Expo 2005 in Japan. Bloomberg Boot Camp, I'm Fred Fishkin.