Toyota unveiled its latest prototype, the Concept-i, January 4, a swoopy futuristic-looking vehicle featuring an artificial intelligence (AI) named “Yui” it hopes will help owners build an immersive relationship with the car.

Developed under the pretense “that mobility technology should be warm, welcoming, and above all, fun,” the Concept-i features few traditional controls, not even touchscreens, so that passengers will be encouraged to instead talk to Yui.

Even if they don’t, Yui will talk to them: the AI has been designed to anticipate and respond to passengers’ needs before they even need to verbalize them, learning patterns and behaviour and using multiple technologies to “measure emotion,” Toyota says.

The AI might automatically adjust in-car lighting, or suggest a destination, based on how the driver is feeling, for example. Toyota says besides light and sound, Yui can even use touch to interact with passengers.

The Concept-i can be used in “automated or manual drive” modes, and the latter includes safety features like projections on the rear pillars to eliminate blind spots; and a next-gen heads-up display ahead of the driver.

Lights inside and out signal which mode the driver is in, and Yui can even appear on exterior door panels to welcome passengers as they enter, or give other motorists warnings or messages.

Designed by the automaker’s renowned California-based CALTY Design Research lab, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like the Concept-i on roads in the near future – Toyota says 2030 – but considering the popularity of Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and other mobile device-based AIs, it may not be too far off.

(Toyota)