The Toyota uBox, a concept car built by Clemson University students, was on display publicly for the first time Monday at Toyota of Greenville.
The Toyota uBox is the sixth-generation Deep Orange project, a program in Clemson’s graduate automotive engineering department at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). According to information from Clemson, the Toyota uBox is an urban utility concept vehicle for young car buyers. The car was created over a two-year accelerated product-development cycle in collaboration with graduate automotive engineering students at Clemson, transportation design students at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. and Toyota. The program challenges students to apply what they learn from faculty and industry experts in designs, vehicle innovations and engineering processes. The goal is to train future engineers to be innovators capable of designing vehicles that balance environmental consciousness, social adaptability and economic feasibility, according to the university.
“I think one of the most critical things that this program does is force you to understand the customer. We spent a lot of time doing customer discovery,” said Mark Benton, a December graduate of the automotive program. “Toyota was really interested in what Generation Z was looking for in a vehicle, so we did a whole lot of research on how that generation sort of runs their life through devices.
“We wanted to treat the car like something more than a way to get from point A to point B. We wanted to offer something more akin to smartphones.”
Benton said the idea he and fellow students had was to create a base vehicle that could be modified to fit a customer’s needs. He said Generation Z is “interested in showing the world how unique they are,” so there are multiple ways the Toyota uBox could be customized.
Features of the Toyota uBox include stationary power, seats that can slide to various positions or be nested into the vehicle to accommodate cargo, two 110-volt outlets and the ability to accommodate a desk for entrepreneurs on the move, Benton said.
“The car offers stationary power because it’s an electric vehicle, so you can drive it for 30 miles then park it for six hours or so and still have power,” he said. “Another thing we found is Generation Z is very entrepreneurial, so we wanted to give them a vehicle where you wouldn’t have to have as much overhead. You can actually work out of your vehicle. Seats can slide around to accommodate a desk.”
The Toyota uBox was first unveiled in April at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, Mich.
“The collaboration with Toyota was open and extremely fruitful,” said Paul Venhovens, the BMW endowed chair for automotive systems integration at CU-ICAR, in a statement. “The Toyota management team asked all the right questions at the right time. They constantly challenged the students with justifying their design and engineering decisions based on the Toyota brand essence, real-world customers and what the students believed the future would embrace. This experience can simply not be gained from a text book.”
Benton echoed the value of the experience gained working on the concept car.
“It’s difficult to overstate how unique and how much of a benchmark this Deep Orange project has become for training the next level of engineers,” he said.
Reach Teresa Cutlip at 864-235-5677, ext. 103, or at SCBizTeresa on Twitter