Toyota Winglet electric mobility assistance robotEnlarge Photo
Japanese automakers may have cultivated a reputation for occasionally churning out dull, forgettable vehicles, but they certainly make up for it in other ways.
Take Nissan, for example. Its bread and butter may be the Versa, but it's also given us the Juke, and the supercar-slaying GT-R. Honda might crank out Civics by the hundred thousand, but they've also given us the NSX, the first-generation Insight and the S2000.
And then there's Toyota. Pick one color to describe the Camry, and you'd probably select beige. But in Japan, the automaker is developing something positively neon--the Winglet.
Okay, maybe neon is a bit strong, but the Winglet serves a noble purpose, as an aid (or a replacement) for walking along Japan's crowded city streets.
Toyota calls it a mobility assistance robot, which sounds more futuristic than the Winglet's Segway-lite styling suggests. Actually, it's not futuristic in the slightest--Toyota first presented the concept in 2008.
But now, it's testing them in field trials, with eighty local authority workers and employees of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, ensuring it's safe enough to be used among pedestrians.
We can't see safety being a major concern, with a top speed of only 3.5 miles per hour. You'll only go around six miles at this speed too, though realistically people will probably just unfurl the Winglet from the trunk of their cars and use it to travel a few hundred yards from a car park to their place of work.
As a zero-emissions electric vehicle (with a one-hour charging time), Toyota also sees it as suitable for indoor use, such as airport terminals and office complexes. Well, racing a couple of these down the hallway is probably more entertaining than skiing along on office chairs.
Winglet will be assessed for safety, convenience, practicality and public reaction (hilarity, we're guessing) over its three-year trial, at which point it'll probably go into production.
Hmm. Give us Razor's Crazy Cart any day. Or maybe even that Camry...