Toyota CES Fuel Cell Challenge (and Self-Driving Cars)

By Phill Powell

toyota-mirai
Toyota is already building its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the Toyota Mirai, which hits the U.S. car market in 2016.

One of the hottest announcements from CES 2015 comes from carmaker Toyota, which wants to inspire technical thinkers to dream up the hydrogen-fueled “car of the future.”

Toyota is so eager to help support the development of this new technology that it’s making a bold move: opening for free public use nearly six thousand patents that involve fuel-cell technology.

Major companies like Toyota aren’t normally known for being so free with their technology, especially in the ultra-competitive world of auto manufacturing, but Toyota is really eager to push hydrogen tech, so the company is taking a page from the Tesla playbook. (Tesla shared its electric-car technology with its competitors in 2014 as a way to inspire innovation.)

Investing in the Bigger Picture
So what’s really in this for Toyota? The carmaker has already invested heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell technology, which it has labeled the future of transportation. Toyota is now producing its hydrogen model vehicle, the Toyota Mirai (which is the Japanese word for “future”), with an expected entry into the northeastern U.S. car market during 2016.

But for hydrogen fuel-cell technology to really catch on, Toyota needs great ideas to emerge that will push the public acceptance of hydrogen technology. And Toyota is betting that when the public embraces hydrogen technology, the name stamped on the hood will be Toyota.

Self-Driving Cars!
Toyota isn’t the only carmaker wowing tradeshow crowds with cool technology. Audi and Mercedes-Benz have been grabbing headlines with demonstrations of their self-driving vehicle prototypes.

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The car that drove itself from San Francisco to Vegas: Audi’s A7 Sportback logged more than 500 miles of self-driving to get to CES.

An Audi A7 Sportback actually drove itself more than 550 miles between San Francisco and Las Vegas. There was a driver at the wheel, but just as backup. The car navigated itself, using Audi’s Piloted Driving technology (which uses a combination of radars, laser scanner and multiple 3D cameras posted around the vehicle).

CES crowds were also stunned by the Mercedes-Benz F015, a car that’s so cutting-edge that it won’t be available for another 15 years. The F015 is a sleek, 17-foot-long cruising sedan made of carbon fiber and steel, with seats that swivel and a steering wheel that folds up into the dashboard when the car is driving itself. Like the Audi A7 Sportsback, the F015 runs off a rechargeable hydrogen fuel cell.

Start Engineering Your Future Now!
Autos running on hydrogen? Cars driving themselves? Clearly there’s never been a better time to get into engineering. Technology is exploding in many directions at the same time, and engineering touches all of them.

For kids and teens, it’s never too early to start discovering the power of engineering and science. At Digital Media Academy, campers as young as six can explore engineering tech camps for kids, using cool LEGO® Simple Machines and Motorized Mechanisms sets.

mercedes-f015
Mercedes-Benz has presented the CES crowds with a car so cutting-edge it won’t even be available for 15 years.

Older students can also get hands-on experience with electrical, mechanical and software engineering through DMA’s robotics and engineering tech camps for teens. Use Arduino™ electronics to help you build awesome robots, which you then pit against each other in ultimate robo competitions.

Registration for the Summer 2015 camp season is underway now.