While health has blurred into a score of consumer product categories, here’s the latest crossover from Toyota: the first car to engineer health and wellness into its design, recently unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show.
The Toyota RiN is a concept car based on comfort and what Toyota’s PR calls, “serene, healthy living.” The RiN was one of 21 cars Toyota showed under the theme, “Harmonious Drive — a New Tomorrow for People and the Planet.”
This isn’t high performance; it’s high-minded health by way of Dr. Weil, wrapped up in a golf cart-cum-Popemobile.
Toyota’s press says the car’s designers were inspired by the Yakusugi cypress tree, which is deeply-rooted and tall growing. A 1000-year-old Yakusugi tree is located in Japan in a pristine region of the country frequented as a center for ecological study.
The expansive green windows are meant to encourage drivers to think about society and nature, exemplified by the design of the ceiling-to-floor sliding window-doors which allow for views of the surrounding environment at ground level.
For enhanced climate control, there’s also a pinpoint humidifier and an oxygen-level conditioner.
The most far-reaching (or perhaps far-fetched?) health feature is a steering wheel and image display that acts as a sort of mood-trainer (think: a mood ring crossed by a steering wheel). The driver’s emotional state is supposedly conveyed in the meter cluster on the steering wheel, shown at the right. The theory behind this feature is that the driver keys onto her mood while driving, and can employ a personal biofeedback strategy to calm herself, or get happy — whatever mood-change she wants to effect.
The Toyota RiN isn’t designed to be healthy only for the driver; the car helps oncoming traffic and pedestrians, too, because the RiN’s headlights use light distribution controls that adjust to oncoming pedestrians and vehicles, who thus avoid being blinded by the lights (ah-ha!, I anticipate the licensing of Bruce Springsteen’s song already even at this concept-car stage).
Health Populi’s Hot Points: I am intrigued by this car. This marks the early phase of auto companies incorporating health-oriented features into a car’s design. Admittedly, some aspects of the RiN might seem, well, ridiculous: leaf shaped foot pedals strike me as something I could sacrifice in the design. One car aficionado said that the RiN resembles something like a Tamagotchi virtual pet. Perhaps, but if health is the new green, then this car could be the start of a new segment of health-geared autos.