Every year, the Washington Auto Show, hosted in Washington, DC, showcases automobiles and technology from the latest auto manufacturers. What makes the DC auto show different from others around the country is the focus on government policy and it’s affect on the auto industry. There are usually panels or round table discussions with former or present congressional leaders, as well as industry execs that make policy driven decisions for their companies.

So while the day started off with Republican Congressman Mike Kelly sharing old Notre Dame football memories, highlighting his life as a former auto dealership owner and imploring a room full of journalists to be more patriotic about their right to vote, I was more intrigued by the Toyota presentation held immediately after.

Douglas Moore, Director of Technology for Human Support for Toyota, gave a powerful presentation on Toyota’s ever evolving stake in mobility. Long before they became a household name for their automobiles, Toyota was a successful mobility company. But it wasn’t the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles that peeked my interest….it was their human support robot, or HSR.

As background, my college degrees include a BS in Social Science, a BA in Communication Studies and an MS in Human Behavior. I bring this up not for you to calculate how many thousands of dollars I am indebted to the Department of Education, but to highlight that I have a fondness for the study of human interaction. So when Douglas began to get to the heart of his presentation, I was completely drawn in.

Toyota HSR

“Now our goal in mobility for all is how do we actually start to apply some of that technology and make it affordable and accessible in different communities. We want to think about allowing the special needs community to have that freedom to move that freedom to be engaged in society one way or another.As a mother of 4, there have been times where at least two of my children were hospitalized for at least a week. Missing school and that peer to peer interaction took its toll on my kids. And when I think about children around the world that are unable to be present in school because of a medical condition, I find it extremely important mobility companies create opportunities and solutions for those children to be “present” in the classroom.

Moore estimates that 2.5 million children experience severe or significant disruption in their school activities, annually. That means they have to be at home for two weeks or longer. As an effort to foster human engagement among a community of individuals that have mobility challenges, Toyota teamed up with researchers from the University of California at Irvine to study the possibilities of everyday people using advanced technology platforms, such as HSR.

I applaud Toyota for developing tele-presence platforms as a way to keep children engaged in their classroom studies. I am equally impressed that the focus on social development appears to be at the forefront of this effort. It’s nice to see an automotive company focus on family that doesn’t involve a minivan reveal!!

For more information on Toyota’s Partner Robot program:

https://www.toyota-global.com/innovation/partner_robot/robot/

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