I love this Honda Puyo concept car, just exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show. Not least for its looks, its clear orientation towards high-density urban living – it can spin 360 degrees to park – plus the now obligatory ‘green’ credentials of electric motors and hydrogen fuel cell, but mainly because of two ongoing obsessions: sensory and behavioural aspects of the design.
Firstly, the car’s roof explores tactility (as well as safety). According to Honda, "PUYO is a Japanese onomatopoeia that expresses the sensation of touching the vehicle’s soft body.":
"The body of the Puyo is not traditional metal but a soft gel designed to look and feel like human or animal skin. As well as the marketing appeal of a such a radical finish, the soft exterior delivers improved safety performance, especially when it comes to pedestrian protection, something Honda leads the world on."
And secondly, the car’s exterior has behaviour, in line with its conditions:
"The Puyo’s body can also glow various colours to change its look and – depending on how you view it – its personality. Honda says the changing colours alert owners to the condition of the vehicle, “facilitating a more intimate relationship between people and their cars”."
(It might enable the car to daub its own ‘CLEAN ME’ graffiti, perhaps.) This capability reminds me of Herzog & De Meuron’s Allianz Arena, of course, but also Brian Eno’s idea for re-equipping cars horns with a suite of aural motifs designed to communicate various messages – or provide a greater range of expression – to other drivers and pedestrians. The Puyo’s visual approach may be quieter if no more discreet, but I do like the idea of the car communicating its state and behaviour with subtlety. It might have been more interesting to connect these two approaches and communicate state through tactility as well as visual feedback. I’d love to hear more detail of the various parameters involved, and associated interfaces (given that changing the exterior colour of the car will be of negligible use to the driver inside, leading to possible later confusion.)
Toyota also had a concept car – the RiN – on show, which approached mood and behaviour, though with rather less insight:
"The RiN uses sensors to monitor the driver’s mental state. The futuristic concept can determine if the driver is flustered or calm and display the results on its modern dashboard."
Though if you need a car to tell you how you feel, I suspect you’re beyond help.
A few more images of the Puyo below: