This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.
This is a part of our coverage of Tokyo Motor Show 2015.
The 60th anniversary of the Tokyo Motor Show saw it take place from the end of October through early November (adjusted back from the last time it was held in 2013, much later in November prompting General Motors to opt out) but there was a lot missing, not only the American presence.
Although Jeep was back, Chrysler is now owned by Fiat; Volvo in the meanwhile only had its trucks on display. Of the Americans not only GM which in 2011 at least had the Bolt Electric Vehicle and Ford which last time at least “had a presence” via Mazda but also Tesla and Harley Davidson – the latter having exhibited its EV concept motorcycle earlier in October at CEATEC, which this year is “collaborating” with the motor show – were not to be found on the Tokyo oceanfront venue despite the numerous vehicle manufacturers plus car parts providers.
It is true European firms, from Britain and France through Germany and Italy among others, were active but missing were all the Korean carmakers. Even the Kobot concept car from Kyushu in Japan, by the Kowa-Tmsuk joint venture, seems to have gone into hiding and Bridgestone Cycle as well did not “show its flag” as in 2013. At least the Canadian and Indian exhibitors did provide this year with some international feel.
What’s more, there appears to have been less talk of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the automotive sector. It is ironic that on the discussion on this topic centered upon Asahi Brewery which was passing out samples of its alcohol-free beer since the show was opened having won against Suntory regarding patents related to the very beverage the brewer was promoting. However activities related to additive manufacturing patents and design rights could be sensed by the more keen-minded during conversations that abound among the professionals in attendance.
The next Tokyo Motor Show, slated to take place in 2017, is seen becoming even more tech and IPR-oriented, not to mention a more marked trend towards sports-connected activities – although as the “photo nuts” hope a bit more of the midriffs covering may be missing the next time around.
With an Eye to 2020?
There were many wheelchairs and other personalized “vehicles” on display at Tokyo Motor Show 2015, many born from venture firms. Of special attention is Whill, the all-terrain electric wheelchair which in 2011 was just a concept displayed at this venue. It was incorporated in 2012 and the equipment modified in addition to gathering venture business funding . It is the first time this year as a company to exhibit its product.
Whill is also of interest because it applied the Soracom SIM in order to keep tabs on the wheelchair passenger’s conditions from a remote location, so should something occur while the Whill user is incommunicado and out-of-sight alone as long as the person is on the wheelchair information can be collected by the “monitor” or other such entity. As an aside Soracom has in addition to unveiling a scalable SIM platform now has a customized DNS service which can help personalize other items for the Whill user.
- Japan’s Soracom launches cellular network service for Internet of Things developers
- Japan’s wheelchair startup Whill raises over $10,000 on Kickstarter in six hours
- In conversation with Whill, the Japanese personal mobility startup on a roll in Silicon Valley
Another wheelchair or rather a hybrid bicycle/wheelchair vehicle, ZieD which has the wheelchair-bound in front as passenger and the driver behind, was also at the show nearby. First displayed at the 2013 show as a concept, ZieD has now been modified for improved communication between the two seats and readied for trial runs.
Speaking of chairs, Honda had a corner at the Smart City section for demonstrating UNI-CUB. Smaller than Segway or Toyota’s Winglet it is a portable “personal vehicle” that looks like an oval chair with flaps that open up for use as footrests. Meanwhile, “Ninebot One” – which is one of the two personal transportation robots showcased by the namesake company – is of a similar style as UNI-CUB; the other robot is more like a lightweight Winglet.
Beyond these Yamaha for example unveiled its “power-assisted” race and mountain bicycles as concept vehicles. Ostensibly these can be modified for paraplegics who may be allowed to use these as part of the Paralympics competition should rules become more accommodating. The same could be said of the wheelchairs as they may be usable for future competitions.