Toyota Develops a Refreshing Nap Seat?


Part of a series featuring Toyota's research in non-automotive fields, this article is all about getting a good sleep, featuring the automaker's newly developed TOTONE nap seat.

I just can’t think straight anymore…

Everyone has had those moments while working. In fact, they are considered signs that brain function is slowing down. And when that urge to rest hits, a short nap of around 20 minutes is said to do the trick.

Toyota developed the TOTONE nap seat as a way to boost performance with short rests of just 15 to 30 minutes. Somewhat skeptical, Toyota Times visited the site where a prototype had been set up. It turned out to be, however, an eye-opening experience.

The nap seat prototype was set up in the Recharge Room, a rest area in Woven Planet’s Nihonbashi offices.

Toyota’s “biggest fool” contest

Toyota runs an internal competition called the No. 1 Aho (fool) Contest, or A-1. Despite its silly-sounding name, this business model contest is a voluntary extracurricular activity with a serious purpose. In fact, the A-1 sparked the development of the TOTONE.

Gen Fukuyama, ADPT AD-1 Group Manager

The ball started rolling with the A-1 contest in 2017, which brought together 28 keen individuals from within the company who were interested in creating innovation and doing something new with a bottom-up approach.

Back in the day, when even Japan’s big industrial conglomerates were reluctant to enter the automobile business, Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda said, “I personally think you’d have to be a fool to charge headfirst into this business. But trying to find success in challenging ventures is what makes life interesting because few people pursue them.”

Those words gave the A-1 (No.1 Fool) contest its name and shows that Toyota’s spirit of innovation was there from the beginning.

Mikio Inoue, ADPT AD-1 Project Leader

When autonomous driving becomes part of society in the future, people may as well have a short sleep while driving in certain vehicles. Inspired by that imagination, we set ourselves a goal of building the ultimate sleeper car and, working backward from there, began by developing a non-mobility product, the TOTONE.

We presented it to management by asking, “Don’t you find it tiring being in a car? Why don’t we turn car interiors into spaces where you can sleep better than in a bed?” Accomplishing that would transform lifestyles, doing away with the need to stay in a hotel on business trips. That was the level of innovation we set out to achieve.

The key to a quick, invigorating nap

TOTONE incorporates a wealth of technologies honed through car-making.

The seatback expands and compresses to aid breathing and relaxation when falling asleep, controlled by technology borrowed from car seats with massage features. To figure out which areas of the back to stimulate for a comfortable wake-up, the team drew on expertise used to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. They also adopted technologies for improving sitting comfort and regulating seat temperature.

Car seat expertise helped create the TOTONE’s cocoon-like feel.

The prototype’s comfort-focused design was arrived at through trial and error with Toyota’s Advanced Design Development team. In fact, the seat was jointly developed with Toyota Boshoku, a Toyota Group seat manufacturer. A project that seemed out of left field for Toyota actually stayed very true to the company’s unique development process.

The original design (top left) was refined to arrive at the current prototype.