May 7, 2015 | By Simon

While the rise of electric (and now, self-driving electric) cars has brought an entirely new design aesthetic to the future of the automobile, few - if any - automobile manufacturers have pushed for allowing customers to produce their own customizations using a 3D printer similar to how other product category manufacturers have.

Of course, one shouldn’t necessarily expect to be able to customize engine components on an engine, however interior elements or exterior body panels and other design elements that don’t interfere with the safety of the vehicle should be fair game, right?  This is exactly what Toyota is aiming to achieve with a new project that will be launched in July of 2015.  

The company, which has been no stranger to pushing the limits of early-stage innovation - such as the release of their Prius hybrid car - will be launching their Open Road Project in Tokyo, which aims to encourage the practical, convenient and fun use of their i-Road vehicle on Tokyo’s city streets.  The i-Road is an ultra-compact electric vehicle designed for the urban environment that is able to be charged from a standard 100V electrical outlet and parked easily on crowded streets.

For the Open Road Project, Toyota will be seeking creative input from the design and maker community as well as specialist companies and members of the public who can help give feedback on two key areas that the company is focusing on for the near future of  user experience for their i-Road vehicles: encouraging customization through the use of additive manufacturing and new ways of finding convenient parking.  

In total, the company will provide 10 i-Road vehicles to a total of 100 participants for roughly one month each over the course of a year.  The participants will range from ordinary citizens to trendsetters and professional experts.  In staying true to their mission of allowing customers to customize their vehicles, Toyota will support the use of custom parts on the i-Road vehicles and allow project participants to express themselves by 3D printing body parts of the vehicle in colors and surface designs of their choice.  

In return, those who participate will provide the company with feedback to improve the practicality and user experience of the i-Road including how the vehicle can be better customized and made more viable for production.  

Those who are interested in participating (and are in Tokyo) can begin applying to be a part of the Open Road Project starting today.  The company has stated that participants will be selected according to a number of criteria, including how often they plan on using the vehicle.  

Added Toyota in their official press release:

“Through these consumer trials, (we) aim to study the best ways to develop products and services that will build on the key strengths of the i-Road and open up exciting new possibilities for mobility.”


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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