Toyota's first dedicated vehicle for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo isn't a flying car, but it shows promise. The automaker today unveiled the APM (Accessible People Mover), an all-electric vehicle it designed especially for next summer's event. The open-air, three-row vehicle can reach speeds of up to 12 mph and accommodate up to five passengers. Each car is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can run 100 kilometers on a single charge. A fleet of 200 APMs will be used to transport people to different competitions and the Olympic Village.
Unsurprisingly, Toyota's APM isn't meant for the masses. The open-air vehicles resemble large golf carts, rather than futuristic vessels of public transportation. There's a good reason why. Toyota intends it to be a "last mile" solution for staff and athletes, as well as visitors with accessibility needs -- such as the disabled, pregnant women, the elderly or families with small children. Each APM can accommodate a wheelchair or a stretcher, and includes an access ramp.
This transportation solution will no doubt be vital for disabled athletes and guests. The Olympics and Paralympics haven't had the best track record with accessibility. Disabled visitors at the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea encountered numerous challenges in rural areas. Tokyo, as one of the world's most developed cities, could pose its own set of problems. Unlike previous Olympic games, where tickets have gone unsold, there's been record-breaking demand for the Tokyo games, so crowds will be considerable. The last time Japan's capital city hosted the worldwide event was in 1964, so expectations for its return are sky-high.
Toyota is expected to reveal even more innovations ahead of the event, including a flying car that will light up the Olympic torch and robots that can bring food and drinks to guests. The automaker is even planning on building robots that can assist guests in wheelchairs. With any luck, the 2020 Olympic Games will be a demonstration of technology's real-life impacts -- and not just futuristic whimsy.