DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. on Jan. 10 revealed the NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid concept vehicle at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The car was developed after Toyota challenged its engineers to design a new mid-sized concept for potential global market introduction by 2015.
The NS4 concept is a dedicated plug-in hybrid, separate from the Prius family.
“In this digital age, cars are becoming another spoke in the wheel of our electronic connectivity,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales president and chief operating officer. “NS4 demonstrates Toyota’s take on the human connection to the car with technology that considers both emotional and rational relationships, person-to-car and car-to-society.”
NS4’s advanced powertrain targets a next-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive plug-in system featuring reductions in component size and weight with improved overall fuel economy, better acceleration and longer all-electric range, while maintaining a short charge time, Toyota said.
Traditional vehicle development cycles average four years, but this is rapidly changing in the digital age, Toyota said. Vehicles have become another communication hub in the connected-consumers lifestyle. In fact, connected vehicles are the third-fastest growing technological device, behind smartphones and tablets.
Toyota has formed special alliances with technology leaders such as Microsoft, Intel and Salesforce to explore the creation of seamless vehicle interfaces with emerging technologies.
The NS4 concept’s Human-Machine Interface (HMI) provides a user interface built around a multi-touch screen with the look and feel of a smartphone. The operation conveys information quickly while minimizing distractions. The multimedia and vehicle-controls enhancement also will direct air conditioning, audio, battery-charge and navigation functions. The HMI system is even capable of “learning” driver preferences and habits to anticipate driver responses in specific environments and situations, according to Toyota.
The NS4 also introduces a next-generation Pre-Collision System (PCS) with lane departure, rear-end and pedestrian collision avoidance technologies. These features are designed to predict collisions under certain circumstances and help avoid them. The PCS uses millimeter-wave radar and stereo cameras mounted on the front of the vehicle to detect and react to lane departure, pedestrians and other vehicles. In addition, the system emits near-infrared beams to enhance PCS recognition at night. This driver assistance feature helps to avoid collisions with other vehicles, road-side obstructions, and pedestrians by applying the brakes and manipulating steering.
The current generation PCS, available in certain Lexus and Toyota vehicles, is designed to identify certain objects directly in the road ahead. If PCS determines that a collision is imminent, the brake assist system is placed in standby mode, a warning is displayed and a buzzer sounds. If PCS determines that a collision is unavoidable, the system still will alert the driver via a warning light, warning display and buzzer, apply the brakes and automatically retract the driver and front passenger seatbelts.
Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) headlights help prevent vision-impairing glare to oncoming drivers and pedestrians. Using a camera mounted behind the front grille and partial shielding inside the headlights, this feature allows drivers to maintain near-high beam illumination to improve nighttime visibility.
The pop-up hood structure automatically raises the rear of the hood to increase the space underneath it, helping to reduce pedestrian head injuries caused by a collision with the front of the vehicle, within certain speed ranges. This innovation resulted from testing and verification using both conventional crash-test dummies and Toyota’s Total Human Model for Safety (THUMS) virtual model.
Using sub-millimeter wave radar, the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) is designed to detect a vehicle in the adjacent lane and visually alerts the driver using visual indicators placed in the upper dash.
Four new glass technologies are integrated into the windshield and front triangle, door and rear windows to improve driver visibility, gas mileage and electric driving mode mileage efficiency:
• Hydrophobic coating – Fluorine-coated glass causes rain drops to form into semispherical shapes for improved visibility and rain drop elimination (also used on the roof solar panel)
• Anti-fog film – High-performance resin material with anti-fogging characteristics and increased durability
• High ultraviolet (UV) absorbing inner-layer – Removes 99 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays
• Anti-solar film with radio-wave transparency – Reduces the internal vehicle temperature and improves electronic device functionality.
Inner and outer rear-view mirrors have been replaced with cameras that provide the driver with a panoramic rearward view. The rearward image is displayed on a dedicated dashboard-mounted screen above the navigation screen and provides a wider view than conventional rear-view mirrors. The rearward panoramic camera view, working in combination with the Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, enhances driving visibility.
“The continued success of our conventional hybrid vehicles has laid strong groundwork for market acceptance of future advanced technologies,” said Lentz. “NS4 demonstrates Toyota’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety, efficiency, and convenience of future mobility for people everywhere."