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ME.WE: The Future of the Automobile.

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

The Future?Revealed last week the ME.WE is Toyota’s vision of the future. The car has four motors at each wheel, no crankshaft, no transmission, and no centrally located engine. With all of these radical changes can the concept even be considered a car or a new beast all its own? The concept reminds one of any standard Apple product simple, easy, intuitive, and sterile. It combines all major modes of transportation into one package. It is a truck, convertible, off-roader, and small city car all in one. The floors are even bamboo, which means one can wash the inside of the car as easy as the outside. With all these improvements and appeal to so many people it is easy to see how this concept is of great appeal to many consumers. However, I think it represents the beginning of the end of inspiring, pretty, and flawed cars. This new Toyota has a lot of appeal to a lot of people, which in my mind makes it uninspired, boring almost. It is as if Toyota has finally given up creativity and has let the mob design their new concept. Old cars were flawed and often downright unsafe, but they were made with this fact in mind and made up for it with speed and beauty. Those cars inspired little boys to put a poster of them on the wall. This new ME.WE does not share in that past and no one in their right mind would put a poster of it on their wall. But maybe this is the future the automobile industry is headed towards; easy, functional, connected, clean, but greatly uninspired and downright ugly cars.



  1. It’s not clear whether you’re referring to Toyota for “ugly cars” or to carmakers in general. Toyota is not the first to play with in-wheel motors; wood and bamboo have been used since the earliest days of the industry. Nor are multi-purpose vehicles new; you can find amphibuous cars going way back as well.

    Now aerodynamics and crush zones push “real” vehicles to certain broad similarities. There’s also a game theory story for mass-market makers, particularly for their volume vehicles: a sharp design won’t boost your share by much, and risks offending your “middle market” buyers if you overdo it. In contrast, a Camry or Accord will sell well even if it’s boring – but well is not spectacular. So there’s a real tendency to play it safe, do something on the boring side, it will never be a hit, but it will also never destroy a career. Furthermore, such “repeat” (n-th generation) products aren’t likely to appeal to designers and engineers who want to push towards the edge of the envelope. That reinforces the conservative bent. Boring. And bit by bit they’ll lose market share to smaller firms that see upside from edgy vehicles.

      edgy conservative
    works +10 +5
    flops -150 -20

    The solution is obvious if you’re risk averse: be conservative. On the other hand, if you’re a niche producer the downside is smaller, an edgy design is a niche design, you get a niche following. In contast, a conservative design loses to the Camry or Accord every time. But an edgy design that hits can give you much bigger volumes; a good conservative design still loses. So if you’re a small player the downside is the car remains a niche vehicle, the upside is lots of sales and (if your cost structure and pricing aren’t wacky) profits and prestige within the company. I don’t do the formal payoff matrix.

    April 30, 2013
  2. kuveke

    Selling to the mob is the best way to make money when you’re making money off volume. I don’t make how a car looks only how it drives and I think for most people the same is true. As long as the car is repulsive they don’t care. The advantage on a car that makes you double take is that if you aren’t repulsed by it your intrigued enough to actually take a look at it. Personally I like the car.

    May 5, 2013
  3. cookg15

    Regardless of whether or not people like the aesthetics of the car or not, it certainly makes an impression. People will see the car on the streets and instantly recognize it, and then associate it with the Toyota name. That is an effective marketing tool in itself. If the functionality of the car appeals to people and it maintains a stable position within the market, I would expect it to become somewhat of a “brand icon” for Toyota, like the Mac and iPhone are for Apple.

    May 7, 2013
    • Interesting question! – to my mind, the most efficient way from an engineering perspective would be to try to make the motor integral to the wheel. If you do that, you’d have to put on a new tire in place. I’ve never watched a truck tire being changed – is that the procedure, or do you have to take the (two pieces ?? of the) wheel off?

      The alternative would be to have the motor on the hub but not actually in the wheel (in contrast to illustrations I’ve seen of early prototypes done by motor manufacturers). Then you could change the tire as always, but the under-vehicle space requirements would shift.

      If you find details, email or post a new comment or even a blog post (send a query about doing that as a comment, I can authorize you and delete the comment…).

      May 16, 2013
    • Autoline Daily has a video on Protean Electric’s in-wheel motors that shows the wheel attaching with the standard bolts. (April 16, Episode 1113 at So no, it appears that changing tires will be unchanged. John McElroy notes they’ll launch in 2014,

      May 20, 2013
  4. tommd13

    I believe this car to be one of the most practical cars I have seen in a long time. And not that I would drive it, but I do not mind the looks of it as well. It can be a truck to carry lumber, a convertible to carry people in the summer who want the wind in their a hair, an off roader… wait no I do not see this little guy being an off roader, it my have the heart of a lion, but it has the ground clearance of dachshund. This means an off roader it cannot be. I still like the practicality of it though.

    May 17, 2013
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    September 25, 2013
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    December 30, 2017
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