Toyota, one of the top Japanese automakers and a world leader in the automobile manufacturing business, may seem like it only focuses on cars. However, it dabbles in other areas, including textile machinery and materials handling equipment. That said, one of its recent patents suggests the car manufacturer is looking to diversify its portfolio even more. After all, Toyota has patented an autonomous dog walker that might be the future for puppy and full-grown canine owners.
According to Toyota Industries, the car manufacturer’s history begins with founder Sakichi Toyoda in 1926. Contrary to popular belief, Toyota Industries Corporation’s first offering wasn’t a car. Instead, it was an automatic loom that reduced defects in cloth and tapestries by stopping the machine as soon as there was a defect.
Sakichi sold the production and sales rights for the loom to a British company for £100,000, with his son Kiichiro later using the proceeds to develop automotive technology. Shortly after that, the company announced its first automobile, the Toyota Model AA.
The automobile department then separated from the rest of the company to become Toyota Motor Corporation. Toyota U.K. notes that since then, the company has gone on to produce many vehicles, including some of the early models like the Toyopet Model SD, AB Phaeton, Land Cruiser 40 series, etc.
Now it’s one of the world’s biggest and most popular car brands, with even a luxury brand under its wing in the form of Lexus. However, as its recent patent shows, it’s diversifying its interests.
Toyota’s patent for an autonomous dog walker
Various brands, including Toyota, Volvo, and delivery company Nuro are looking into creating autonomous vehicles for the future that require little to no driver input. According to Autoblog, the dog walker seems to work on the same principle.
The “guidance vehicle,” as Toyota calls it, is designed with a low-to-the-ground, mail-cart-like design making it look like a simplistic device on the patent filing. That said, it’s worth noting that most products look starkly different from their initial patent designs. Nevertheless, the functionality tends to stay the same.
The autonomous walker’s basic functionality is to take leashed canines out for a walk through a pre-programmed route. The automaker also promises the device will cater to common dog walk eventualities. For example, most walkers will grab the leash tightly if the dog gets too excited and tries to deviate from the path.
This typically happens when other animals are nearby, such as squirrels and cats. The device achieves the same result by locking the leash to keep the dog from running off until the excitement wanes. Furthermore, it’s equipped with a water spray and poop scoop to clean up after the dog. This is in addition to the cameras that watch the dog and support these clean-up functionalities.
While it’s meant to be a crewless autonomous vehicle, users can choose to ride on the platform if they want to accompany their dog. Even the dog can choose to ride the platform once it’s had enough exercise. Nevertheless, given that the patent is recent and there are still some issues with autonomous vehicle technology, it’ll probably be a while before this dog walker hits the market.
Beyond Toyota’s patent: the most anticipated vehicle offerings
While the autonomous dog walker isn’t expected to hit the market anytime soon, some of Toyota’s more highly anticipated offerings are. One example is the 2023 Toyota Corolla GR. This will be the automaker’s first entry into the hot-hatchback market segment.
Car and Driver note the Corolla GR will feature a 1.6L engine with 300 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. These specs will give alternatives like the Honda Civic Type R, Golf GTI, and more a good run for their money.
Another anticipated option is the Toyota Grand Highlander which should have a more extended chassis than the regular Highlander. The car is thus expected to give the Kia Telluride a run for its money in the three-row SUV segment once it hits the U.S. market.