When most people hear the word “Toyota,” the first thing they think of is one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. What they probably don’t know is that Toyota is also aiming to be more than just that by pushing the boundaries of innovation. It’s not just about cars anymore - it’s about the full mobility of the human body and ensuring that it’s available to everyone. One of Toyota’s current projects is creating devices best described as “futuristic” in order to help those with disabilities or partial paralysis that prevent them from having a full ambulatory range, and its projects like these that make us here are Westbury Toyota extremely proud to be a part of a company with this kind of vision and drive.
Toyota has already forged ahead into this new area of research and development, making its dedication and determination known. As Robert Klara of Adweek reports, Toyota has established an eight year collaboration partnership with both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in order to showcase just how it intends to start creating technology that will make mobility a reality for all.
To better show the world just what kind of impact the organization hopes to have, Toyota and it’s collaborative partners have released a two minute video spotlighting actual people with varying levels of disabilities and how Toyota’s new instruments have granted them easier, improved ambulatory abilities. It’s clear through the creation of these devices that Toyota hopes to give those with limited mobility a simpler, more dignified life. The company's product development is not just limited to devices that can help in everyday situations; it has also created apparatuses that can help disabled athletes take part in different athletic events, including track and field. This isn’t just a concept anymore - it’s already happening, and that’s why Toyota is working with others to promote that this can be the new reality.
“The Japanese Automaker has put the world on notice that it is now a mobility company… broadening its offerings to a wide variety of futuristic devices, often with built-in digital capabilities, that enable human motion in ways that go well beyond driving down the road.”– Robert Klara, Writer for Adweek
While Toyota may be spearheading the movement to create mechanisms to give or augment human mobility, the men and women behind these programs are also encouraging others to help, too. Steve O’Hear of TechCrunch explains that the Toyota Mobility Foundation has created a four million dollar challenge in order to support the radical improvements in the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis through smarter assistive technology.” The challenge, run in tandem with Nesta (an innovation company based in the United Kingdom), is open to participants from around the globe.
There is no definitive breakdown of just what Nesta and Toyota are looking for. Rather, they’ve given a list of concepts that would be approved, including robotic exoskeletons, powered limb braces, and powered autonomous wheelchairs. However, the challenge encourages out-of-the-box thinking, as well - anything, be it software or hardware, that can help to improve mobility for those who have lower body paralysis will be considered.
The challenge also encourages teamwork via that fact that is also looking for ideas from groups such as tech startups or companies as well. These organizations don’t even have to specialize in this field, either - anyone who thinks they can develop progressive assistive technology is welcome to participate. It might seem counterintuitive, but Toyota believes that by casting a wide net, there’s a far better chance of finding new ideas or concepts that can truly change the game in assistive tech, all while at the same time encouraging cooperation and innovation from all.
We live in a day and age where technological advancements happen at an almost daily pace. We’re used to seeing it in regard to our smartphones, tablets, and computers. As Toyota has proven time and again, we’re also used to seeing significant technological advancement in our cars. However, Toyota’s new direction is helping to spread awareness that convenient, useful technology can be about more than just adding new features and functionality to mobile devices and vehicles. It can be about providing those with varying levels of disabilities with the same everyday mobility advantages that many of us take for granted. It can be about making the dreams of partially paralyzed athletes come true. It can be about creating an exoskeleton to let someone walk after years of being in a wheelchair. It’s about pushing the limits of assistive technology, and those of us here at Westbury Toyota are happy to say that we support Toyota in all this organization has done and will continue to do on this front.