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Man’s New Best Friend

The “Pod,” co-developed by Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp., just might give Fido a run for his money.

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  • More than just a pretty face.

The “face” of this four-seater has U-shaped grooves that light up to express emotion, the headlights are positioned mid-way to look like eyes and side-mirrors are positioned to look like ears.

When the vehicle’s owner approaches, the grooves light up in a happy orange-yellow smile. Puncture a tire or run out of fuel, and blue lights – complete with a display of tear-drops – illuminate a frowning face. If you swerve sharply or brake too hard, the grooves light up in an angry red.

  • How do I know which is really my best friend – my pug or my Pod?

Like your dog, the back of the Pod – similar in design to the front – features a tail-like wagging antenna. Unlike your dog, it won’t piddle on the carpet in excitement.

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  • Cuteness aside, can I still put the pedal to the metal?

No. The Pod is driven with a joystick-type controller and doesn’t have foot pedals. It does have sensors to detect a driver’s emotional state and give advice in driving. The Pod also compares pre-recorded data of an expert driver with the current driver’s style and displays words of praise or warning on a center monitor.

  • Running late for your therapy appointment? Dr. Pod can help.

By measuring the degree of acceleration, the distance from the car in front and the pulse and perspiration of the driver, the Pod can actually tell when the driver’s in a hurry. Not only will it display a warning, but it will try to calm the driver down with relaxing music and by blowing cool air.

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  • Will it help me remember my wife’s birthday?

No. But it will help you remember those special motoring moments, taking photos of you when the tone of your conversation indicates you’re happy.

  • Keyless entry, eat your heart out.

A small portable terminal – called a mini-pod – will memorize the musical and TV program preferences of the driver, choose background music and provide shopping information.

If the driver approaches the car with the mini-pod, the vehicle lights up, opens the door, swivels the seat for easy entry and adjusts the seat’s height. Switch off the engine with the mini-pod, and the car falls in height and says good-bye.

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