Toyota launches Maker-inspired concept vehicle

With the population exhibiting a growing DIY mentality, vehicle manufacturer Toyota has become the latest mainstream corporation to jump on the Maker bandwagon and plans on unveiling their newest brainchild at the next weekend’s World Maker Faire.

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Influenced by the budding Maker community and developed by Calty Design Research, the Japanese car giant has unveiled their “Urban Utility U2” concept car during a private event hosted by MAKE Magazine in San Francisco. The innovative vehicle is a highly-customizable ride that reflects the lifestyle and needs of an entrepreneurial, urban driver. The inspiration for the U2 was obtained from various interviews with Makers and creators conducted by Toyota’s internal market research team.

The U2 differs from your typical SUV in many ways. Makers may have unconventional needs for their projects, and the U2 is built to suit them. For example, the roof can be rolled back to fit an unwieldy design, or the tailgate can transform into a ramp to easily maneuver heavy objects.

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In its recent press release, Toyota reveals other key interior highlights include:

• Versatile utility rail system configurable to hold everything from baskets to bike stands
• Ability to fold and remove the front passenger seat
• Fold-up rear seating
• Unique shifter design with intuitive switch for parking, drive and reverse mode
• Choice among a selection of colors and materials to fit needs

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“Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle based on increasing re-urbanization of our cities and urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and maneuverability,” notes Kevin Hunter, President of of Calty. “Calty keeps a number of projects concealed while exploring ideas and products. Revealing a project like the U2 gives people a window into the constant innovation that happens inside Toyota and our Calty studios and one possible future for urban mobility.”

When it comes to its exterior, the Urban Utility doesn’t really scream for attention; instead, the design fits the mold of an urban creator. The boxy shape allows for maximum storage; while the materials used to cover the vehicle are ideal for the daily bumper-to-bumper grind that city driving often entails. It’s meant to meet users “desire for greater utility but a smaller vehicle footprint,” according to the release. The designers do try to lend it some panache with the LED headlights up front and checker board side panels.

“As more products are developed expressly to appeal to Makers and their deep appreciation of design esthetic combined with open architecture and practical utility, we expect to see more trusted brands like Toyota take an unconventional approach to not only product development but their marketing and launch strategies,” adds Sherry Huss, VP and Co-Founder of Maker Faire.

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Don’t forget to join the Atmel team in Queens later this month for the 5th Annual World Maker Faire. Undoubtedly, this year will be amazing as an expected 750+ Makers and 85,000+ attendees head to the New York Hall of Science to see the latest DIY gizmos and gadgets, as well as AVR Man in the flesh. Once again a Silversmith Sponsor of the event, Atmel will put the spotlight on everything from Arduino to Arduino-related projects. See you soon!

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