Toyota describes it this way: “repurposing innovative automotive technology to benefit society in the non-automotive space.” What it means is bringing specialist knowledge accrued by Toyota over years of making cars and applying it to other areas in a campaign the company calls “Ideas for Good.” Basically, Toyota wants to be nice.

Here’s an example. Toyota has developed a computer program it calls THUMS – Total Human Model for Safety. This software usually simulates injuries suffered in a vehicle collision, but it can be used to study the head injuries of football players. Which is what the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has been doing. Researchers there are utilizing THUMS to look at ways of treating head trauma and possibly preventing it by designing safer football helmets that can reflect this greater understanding.

Toyota also has some know-how regarding the construction of environmentally friendly buildings. Its North American headquarters in Torrance, California has won a gold award from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Those insights were shared with the Yellowstone National Park when the park took on the project of constructing a new visitor education center, along with a donation of $1,000,000. The center’s architects were hoping to get a silver award form the USGBC but, thanks to Toyota’s input, they managed to achieve a gold.

“We’re sharing a side of Toyota many are not aware of and engaging the public in a way we’ve never done before,” said Bill Fay, group VP of marketing for Toyota Motor Sales. “We’re shining a light on some of our revolutionary technologies, which have been used to improve people’s quality of life, to encourage the public to help us identify the next big idea for good.”

Yes, Toyota wants us to get involved. By highlighting five of its innovations in a series of TV ads, it hopes to encourage people to suggest ways of employing them in different fields. With the aforementioned THUMS, the rest are:

 

Hybrid Synergy Drive

The guts of Toyota’s current hybrid fleet, using gasoline and electric motors, and converting braking energy into electricity.

 

Solar Powered Ventilation

The new Prius has the option of a roof-mounted solar panel that powers a cooling system when the car is parked in direct sunlight.

 

Touch Tracer Display

A touch-activated system that can control music, cabin temperature and other functions from the steering wheel.

 

Advanced Parking Guidance

A system of ultra-sonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers to assist in parking, needing just slight brake pedal input from the driver.

 

The TV ads can be seen on Toyota’s YouTube channel and more information about the campaign and the technologies can be found on www.toyota.com/ideasforgood. Ideas submitted by the public will be judged by a panel of experts.

Here’s one suggestion to get the ball rolling: using solar panels to power water purifiers in developing countries and areas ravaged by earthquakes.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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