Honda's new Puyo concept car
Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters
Models pose with Honda Motor Co's new Puyo concept car during the Tokyo Motor Show this week. The Puyo has no sharp edges and is covered in soft silicone so it can absorb the force of light collisions.
By Brian Tracey Associate editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

When it comes to design, Japanese automakers have long been known for thinking outside the box when compared to their often more dull Detroit rivals. So it should surprise no one that at the Tokyo auto show this week, Honda unveiled its Puyo concept car that has no sharp edges and is covered in soft silicone so it can absorb the force of light collisions.

The car — named after a Japanese word that describes a soft, spongy texture — is driven with a joystick, and also glows in different colors, depending on whether it is running or standing still.

"It’s definitely 'cute' rather than 'cool,'” a Honda spokeswoman said.

The silicone that covers the Puyo’s body and interior — the same material used for some mousepads or i-Pod covers — gives the car a texture that is harder than Jell-O but softer than an eraser, so it can be pinched with the fingers.

More seriously, the Puyo is an environmentally friendly fuel-cell vehicle, creating electricity from hydrogen fuel and oxygen and emitting only water.

While the car is not likely to be on the market until around 2020, it gives a peek into what is on the drawing board at Honda, known for being at the forefront of pedestrian safety. In 2004 it put infrared cameras on one of its models, which record objects even in the dark and enable the drivers to identify pedestrians on a screen.

But just how much of a collision can the pedestrian-friendly Puyo take before it gets bent out of shape?

“We can’t talk about the strength of the car,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re working on that now.”

In other words, if one day you're crossing a street in Tokyo and you see glowing gumdrop on wheels silently heading toward you, get the hell out of the way!

Going while you're going
Here's another weird automotive product from the land of the rising sun: If you're stuck in traffic when Mother Nature calls, Japan's Kaneko Sangyo Co. has developed the loo for you.

The manufacturer of plastic car accessories unveiled this week its new portable toilet for cars.

The toilet comes with a curtain large enough to conceal users and a plastic bag to collect waste.

"The commode will come in handy during major disasters such as earthquakes or when you are caught in a traffic jam," a company official told reporters, according to Kyodo News.

Drivers stranded by tectonic movements or stuck in gridlock simply assemble the cardboard toilet bowl, fit a water-absorbent sheet inside and draw round the curtain.

The product is small enough to fit inside a suitcase, the company said.

Just make sure you dispose of if before your kids open your bag looking for that present you brought back from your business trip.

Hotel's nudie nighttime
A surge in naked sleepwalking among guests has led one of Britain's largest budget hotels to retrain staff to handle the late-night nudity.

Travelodge, which runs more than 300 hotels in Britain, says sleepwalking rose seven-fold in the past year, and 95 percent of the somnambulants are scantily clad men.

"We have seen an increased number of cases over the years so it is important that our staff know how to help sleepwalking when it arises," Leigh McCarron, the chain's sleep director, said in a statement.

One tip in the company's newly released "sleepwalkers guide" tells staff to keep towels handy at the front desk in case a customer's dignity needs preserving.

The company said naked wanderers often ask receptionists such questions as "Where's the bathroom?," "Do you have a newspaper?" or "Can I check out, I'm late for work?"

Studies have found that sleepwalking can be brought on by stress, alcohol, eating cheese or consuming too much caffeine. It generally takes effect an hour or two after going to bed, when people are first slipping into a deep sleep.

Asked Thursday why she thought 95 percent of its sleepwalkers were naked men, a Travelodge spokeswoman said: "We have more men staying with us than women, so that could be a factor."

Ladies, stop snickering, this is a serious disease!

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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