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At the same time, Toyota has long had a fascination with personal transportation going back to the Walking i Pooh from its 1998 Ideas Olympics, the 2003 PM concept and the i-Unit, an exoskeleton concept displayed in the Toyota pavilion at the Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan.In the i-Road, Kanaka and his team have linked these seemingly implausible ideas.Turn the wheel and i-ROAD leans and swoops from side to side like a scooter.It feels delicate, rather than spindly, and very stable.The slower you go the more it steers, so the i-ROAD is more manoeuvrable at walking pace and more stable at speed.Narrow width and manoeuvrability are the main features.
A 6ft 10in wheelbase and a steerable 10in diameter single rear wheel means it turns on a drain cover, and at 7ft 8in long, you can park up to four i-Roads in a standard parking space.
"We started thinking of compact dimensions; a narrow, short-wheelbase vehicle," says Kanaka.
"Three wheels came from that, but they would mean it [i-Road] might turn over easily, so we developed an active leaning system to keep it stable." The tilting system is disarmingly simple, with a couple of rods attached to the suspension of each 16in diameter front wheel, linked together via a horizontal crank, which is electronically manipulated to lean the i-ROAD into corners like a skier.
Long after the official drives were over, when darkness had fallen over Tokyo and the launch tents and furniture were being noisily hauled on to trucks, there was still a long queue of journalists waiting for a second or third drive of the i-Road concept – I've seldom seen such enthusiasm from the press.
"So that's why everyone comes back with a smile on their face," said Toyota's translator as she jumped out of the i-Road after a begged drive in this tilting trike.
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