Section 8. Integrating IT and Exploring New Energy Sources
Item 4. Actions for Assisting Mobility
Realizing universal design
From the mid-1990s, along with the growing need to address safety, environmental, and energy issues, there was increasing demand for improved comfort and usability and the concepts "barrier-free" and "universal design" gained popularity. Universal design is a design approach that focuses on making products accessible for stress-free use by a broad range of people including the elderly. This approach was embodied by Toyota in the Raum compact car for the Japanese market launched in 1997.
The Raum had a long wheelbase in relation to the overall vehicle length and a greater vehicle height and higher sitting position as part of measures to improve ease of vehicle boarding and exiting and to secure a wider field of vision. This design received recognition when the vehicle became the first to win the Universal Design Prize as part of the MITI's 1997 Good Design Award competition. Meanwhile, the first-generation Prius launched in December of the same year with a newly developed platform featured full-scale integration of universal design, including a central instrument readout panel requiring reduced visual refocusing.
As part of a further advance in Toyota's approach to universal design, the second-generation Raum, launched in 2003, featured a futuristic elliptical steering wheel that made the instrument panel easier to view and also facilitated boarding and exiting. At this time, Toyota formulated and introduced universal design evaluation indices consisting of two indices based on criteria developed independently in-house. The results of the evaluation were displayed in vehicle brochures and their content was reflected in subsequent vehicle development.