No unwanted clean-ups in aisle 2 of your car.
We've all been there. You're road tripping with your family through the middle of nowhere when suddenly your kid pipes up, "Are we there yet? I need to pee!" Why couldn't they have peed at the last rest stop, you wonder? Why couldn't they have told you sooner before you decided not to stop at that last gas station? Well, it seems Toyota is working on a way to circumvent this issue, as patent documents filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office have confirmed. Uncovered by CarBuzz, the documents point to a slew of technology that will not only detect how likely the occupants of your Camry or Toyota Highlander are to need the bathroom, but will alert the driver via a "toilet desire estimating unit" on the infotainment system, and even make route suggestions to the nearest stop where public bathrooms are available.
The 21-page document goes into far too much detail about the function of the human bladder and digestive tract for our liking, but we waded through it to find out how it all works.Toyota has identified the key signals that indicate the "desire of an occupant to urinate/defecate." The two key areas of detection involve sensors in the seats and camera systems to track facial expressions. The former would employ multiple types of sensors housed within the seat. Potential sensors include an echogram or ultra-sound that could detect the presence of feces in the digestive tract, or a gas sensor that could detect the frequency and componentry of farts to determine whether a bathroom break is needed. A proposed muscle sensor in the seat would detect squirming, and particularly, the clenching of certain muscles in your backside that may indicate you need to stop.
The camera system would analyze facial expressions, creating a baseline, and then use AI to determine when your facial expression indicates you need to stop. The AI would also read, in the case of the driver, braking inputs, rough acceleration, and following distance to the car ahead to determine potential discomfort. These systems can be paired with a microphone system that listens for key phrases like "I almost peed my pants" or "I want to go to a restroom."
We've seen voice recognition used in infotainment systems like Mercedes-Benz's MBUX interface that have worked quite well, but even the best of these systems can get confused, so we can foresee a few awkward moments when your car mishears what you're saying and suggests a bathroom break to you and your co-pilot.
In addition to warning the driver of the impending Code Brown, the patent makes provision for route alteration to reach the nearest restroom. The technology can be implemented in both autonomous and driver-piloted vehicles and can suggest alternate routing to the nearest rest stop. Furthermore, the patent claims that it could even predict congestion at rest stops, and make sure that it takes you to the one with the least chance of there being a queue to use the lavatory.
En route, the navigation will choose roads that are smoother and have fewer twists and turns to reduce discomfort for those who need to go. While this happens, the climate control will adjust for maximum comfort.
Perhaps the weirdest twist is that cars with massaging seat functions could be used to ease discomfort using acupuncture pressure points. According to the patent filing, "it is known that there is an acupuncture point having a possibility that allows… the desire of the occupant to urinate… or defecate not to increase more and/or at least… to be eased."
In short, the car would detect you need the bathroom, navigate you to the nearest stop, and on the way, make sure you're as comfortable and unlikely to pee your pants as possible.
And, before you ask, it is not April 1 today - this is a real patent.