On March 13, 2015, to be precise, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Toyota President Akio Toyoda came together in Tokyo to announce that the Toyota Motor Corporation will be an official Olympic partner and provide mobility solutions for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games that would take place in the city over five years later. And the work wouldn’t end in 2020 either.
Benefits beyond 2020
The plan is for Toyota to remain a partner with the Organising Committees through to 2024 to help develop plans for “safer, more efficient mobility, including intelligent transport systems, urban traffic systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems.” The idea is to have the cities benefit from such innovative improvements even after the Olympics and Paralympics are over.
Toyota became the third company to make that long term commitment, according to Tsunekazu Takeda, the IOC’s Marketing Commission Chairman, President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and Vice-President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee
IOC President Thomas Bach observed that “Toyota and the IOC share the same values." He explained how the partnership between the corporation and the organization was a historic first:
“It is the first time in the successful history of the TOP programme that we have had a mobility category. It is in the spirit of the Olympic Agenda 2020 not just in terms of innovation but also in terms of sustainability in mobility.”
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has very lofty goals for the 2020 events with a target set for reduced emissions on transport in line with the ideals of sustainability that it supports.
Different models for different needs
Accordingly, Toyota aims to deliver its mobility solutions with electric power for 90% of the vehicles used. Marking the progress made over four years, in its August 23, 2019 press release, Toyota detailed what kinds of vehicles could be included in the Olympic lineup:
Electrified vehicles include Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV), Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), such as the hydrogen-powered Mirai, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), the Prius PHV (known as Prius Prime in some markets), and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), including the "APM" (Accessible People Mover) and the e-Palette as well as TOYOTA Concept-i, which will provide a unique and wide-range of diverse mobility during Tokyo 2020. Among the electrified vehicles provided, Toyota will include approximately 500 FCEVs and approximately 850 BEVs, the largest of any fleet for a Games to date.
The video above demonstrates a ride in Toyota's Fuel Cell SORA bus, which is powered by hydrogen, a more sustainable alternative to diesel.
Toyota estimates it will deliver 3,700 products, including cars or other mobility aids for the 2020 event. They are not designed just to reduce emissions but to increase safety and so will be built with technologies designed to prevent collisions and minimize damage.
For those whose own mobility offers challenges, Toyota is offering “assistive vehicles that help lift passengers into their seats” or that are themselves wheelchair accessible with doors and slopes that accommodate them.
Among the vehicles to serve the population that has curtailed mobility is the "APM (Accessible People Mover)." Toyota designed this five-passenger vehicle with seating that can be folded down to accommodate wheelchairs especially for the Games.
About 200 APMs are to be applied as transportation solutions fo those who can’t simply get on and off standard buses easily. They have in mind "athletes and staff related to the Games as well as all types of visitors with accessibility needs such as the elderly, people with impairments, pregnant women, and families with small children, among others.”
Robots will also play an important role
While the brand name Toyota is associated with cars, the mobility innovations it is set to deliver also involve the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project. Nobuhiko Koga, Chief Officer of Toyota's Frontier Research Center, explained how robots fit the company’s defined direction:
Now, as we transform into a mobility company, we are expanding our robotics efforts to provide all people with the freedom to move. 'Mobility for all' is not only the 'physical' movement of a person or thing from one location to another, but also includes 'virtual' mobility of a person. This provides further opportunities to experience new things, meet and interact with others, or to be 'moved' emotionally. At Tokyo 2020, we want to capture the imagination of spectators by providing support robots as we do our part to make the Games a success.
Toyota has shown five different robot designs to meet specific needs for competitors, officials, and viewers of the games, The look of each robot is as distinctive as its function.
1. The Tokyo 2020 Mascot Robot Miraitowa / Someity (Mascot Robot)
This model is cute enough to appeal to a child, and that is the idea, to extend the enjoyment of the games to children in Japan.
- The mascot robot will both allow expressions of arm movements via a remote-location robot, and share force-feedback from interactions
- Via a camera mounted on the robot's head, it can recognize people nearby, and once recognized, use its eyes to respond with/show a variety of expressions
- By equipping the robot with miniature joint units across its entire body, the robot offers flexibility when being controlled, and the users can operate the robot safely and with high operational functionality
2. The T-HR3 (Humanoid Robot) may be somewhat intimidating for a child, but can help extend the experience of the games to adults. You can see both the cute mascots juxtaposed with the full-sized humanoid robot in the image of the video below:
These robots are capable of reproducing movement from a remotely located mascot robot in near real-time. They can share images and sounds from the remote locations and also translate the physical experience of interaction, including high-fiving the competitors or others in attendance.
3. The T-TR1 (Remote location communication Robot) resembles a vacuum cleaner with a screen where the handle would be and a camera on top.
- T-TR1 is a virtual mobility/tele-presence robot developed by Toyota Research Institute in the United States. It is equipped with a camera atop a large, near-lifesize display
- By projecting an image of a user from a remote location, the robot will help that person feel more physically present at the robot's location
- With T-TR1, Toyota will give people that are physically unable to attend the events such as the Games a chance to virtually attend, with an on-screen presence capable of conversation between the two locations.
4.The HSR: Human Support Robot / DSR: Delivery Support Robot looks like a basic robot without strong humanoid features. You can see it in action in the video below:
- There will a section with specially accessible seating at the Olympic Stadium where the guests will be directed to their seats by the Toyota Human Support Robot HSR
- It also can service both those in accessible seating, as well as the general population in the audience, by delivering beverages or other items they have ordered through a tablet.
5.The FSR: Field Support Robot (Field Event Support Robot), as the name implies, works the field.
These robots would clear the field of obstacles for the javelin competition, reducing both the need for human labor in retrieval and the amount of time needed to wait for the items to be cleared.
Three definitive values
Toyota identified three fundamental values for its participation in the Games in Tokyo next year. They “center on (1) Mobility for All, or allowing all people the freedom to move, (2) Sustainability, centering on the realization of a hydrogen society (environment/safety), and (3) Transportation support for the Games using the Toyota Production System (TPS).”