"Dreamers" Will Create The Future


When you hear that Toyota is developing a ‘lunar rover,’ how many people take that idea seriously? But making a lunar rover is not a pipe dream; many people, including members of Toyota and JAXA, are working diligently towards a launch of the vehicle in as early as 2029. Some would consider that timeline "just a few years away”. Being on the ground to see the progress and talking to the engineers, what kind of thoughts did Editor-in-Chief Kagawa have? What were his impressions of the project and the vehicle?

I never thought these things were this connected to each other

Q.  Please share your thoughts on what you found at JAXA.

Well, first it all seemed very distant, like something in the distant future. Of course, 50 years ago, even though humans landed on the Moon, we didn't anticipate that we would be working this earnestly towards such concrete goals in the near future. At least, I didn’t.

With so many things on the Earth that we have to solve, including environmental challenges and other numerous issues happening at this moment, it's probably normal for people to feel that the Moon is hardly a priority right now.

However, one fact overlooked is that things we do first on the Moon make their way back for use on the earth later on. Yet it seems most people think “Forget about the Moon, let’s worry about the Earth first.”

Initially, we have no way of knowing how far things like automated driving or the Guardian system – which is half-automated, half-manual – will go. Even if this is the start of automated driving, in practice how will it operate in society, how will it interact with pedestrians, how well will it integrate? It almost felt like these things weren’t connected.

Meanwhile, though there’s also the issue of fuel, AI, or equipping AI features…these link back to automated driving. Back when visiting Silicon Valley and seeing what the distant future might look like, I realized how many people, myself included, still see cars as a means of transportation, where humans get behind the wheel and drive themselves. Toyota has been waiting to find a way to strategically tie all these aspects together in the background, and its strength will gradually became clearer.

Just like when I rode in an automated driving car on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, or rode in the hydrogen-powered car MIRAI, or when Woven City was announced and President Toyoda spoke about his vision – all of these things are deeply connected to this lunar project.

One way or the other, we will bring back what we learn from the Moon, the type of environments we need to endure, create, and make comfortable and find use for it in Woven City and the Earth. Already cars are moving beyond merely the e-Palette, truly becoming a space that demonstrates this type of environment. While faint, these and this type of activity becomes a sort of straight path leading us to mobility. I didn’t think that these were all this connected to each other.

Fostering an environment that allows the pursuit of dreams

Q.  How do you feel about Toyota developing vehicles from cars to lunar rovers?

If we think of dreams as being something you hold in your teens and 20s, and cast aside as you enter your 40s, 50s, and 60s, then this reminded me how blatantly Toyota’s approach casts such definitions aside.

Regardless of your age, whether you’re young or old and experienced, there are always things you can do to pursue your dreams, and everyone in this company is given opportunities to freely tackle these challenges, along with, of course, a place, time and resources to do so. Though taken on to varying degrees depending on the person, the fact is that an environment exists which allows them to pursue their dreams, and there is an endless stream of people willing to work to that end. Having rich resources like this is, as you can imagine, quite exceptional.

I feel as though this year, 2020, with its various challenges, marks a new era in which a different type of individual is needed to pave the way for future generations.

The people who are part of a company that enable such an environment, they have the qualities that are needed, and they are pursuing their dreams, regardless of age. Seeing that gives me courage as well, and makes this reporting more rewarding. To put it another way, you really can’t make people. I think that’s why, in Toyota’s case, the company’s efforts to develop people stand out.

Even the kids at the Toyota Technical Skills Academy, they reply straight away when you ask where their strength lies: ‘Our colleagues!’, ‘Our people!’.
Of course, there’s a lot in technical aspects, but I think the key is the spirit that wants to tackle challenges, of living for the sake of others, of living for something greater. There are very few people who pursue their own happiness, or ask what you can do for them, seeking to gain from others.

Above all, it’s taking pleasure in giving to others, in giving not receiving, and here you have a steady procession of such people. From the beginning, my reporting has given me a sense of just how strong that core is.

Mr. Wakata is a perfect example. He has experienced some pretty tough times, being in zero-gravity for half a year – that’s a very long self-isolation, in zero-gravity. And yet, when he tells me that he loves sleeping like this, or some other strange thing, with that joyful, sparkle in his eye, it makes me realize that this is how our future is made. He is going to take many people towards happiness. I realized it is these people who make things happen. People with dreams make things happen, no doubt.