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Olympics stage set for bots to shine

Several of the vehicles and robots Toyota developed to showcase at the Olympics are scheduled to debut. And Toyota’s gadgetry likely won’t go unnoticed by athletes and team members in town for the Games — or even perhaps by sharp-eyed people watching from home.

Early off the line was Toyota’s LQ all-electric pod car, which functioned as the official torch-relay escort vehicle. It is a self-driving vehicle equipped with a digital assistant designed to deliver a “personalized mobility experience.” The car builds on the Concept-I exhibited in 2017 at CES in Las Vegas. Toyota had planned to have a working version of the LQ ready for public test drives. But the pandemic crashed those ambitions. Toyota supplied two LQs to the Olympics.

Also deployed for the torch relay was Toyota’s T-TR2 robot, an update of the T-TR1 shown in 2019. A remote-location communication, or “tele-presence” robot, it resembles an oversized upright vacuum cleaner with a tall vertical display screen instead of a dust bag.

It beams a life-size, real-time video of a person unable to attend the Games onto the screen, and the robot roams the Olympic venues so the person can participate virtually. T-TR2 allowed a Japanese high school student who uses a wheelchair to participate virtually in the torch relay.

Taking the field in the Games themselves is the FSR, short for “field support robot.” This pint-sized runabout is being deployed at such events as the javelin, discus and hammer throw. The four-wheeled FSR, about the size and shape of a tailgate cooler box, will scamper onto the field and take the thrown object back to the thrower’s circle.

The FSR showcases the integration of lidar, camera and GPS technology to pilot the roaming robot back to base autonomously, similar to a self-driving vehicle.

The Olympics also plan to make use of a small fleet of Toyota e-Palettes. These autonomous boxcar-like people movers will shuttle up to 20 passengers each around the Olympic Village. Organizers say they have 17 on hand. Toyota also has offered about 475 of its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedans to usher people between sporting venues.

Also on call are about 200 Accessible People Movers. Toyota designed these all-electric, low-speed covered carts to shuttle officials and athletes around Olympic sites.

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