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Toyota-Microsoft Technology Company Aims to Humanize Mobility

Toyota sees the future of mobility like this: You’re heading home from work and hunger strikes. Your Toyota Camry knows you like Mexican food, so it calls up a list of restaurants reviewed by Yelp that are on your route, and Open Table makes you a reservation. That’s just one example of what Toyota expects to come out of its new company, Toyota Connected, formed with Microsoft.

“People are tired of fumbling with disjointed technologies and multiple apps. Our vision is to do all of that processing and give the consumer a great experience,” Zack Hicks, chief executive officer of Toyota Connected and chief information officer of Toyota Motor North America, told journalists in a conference call.

The Big Picture

Like efforts by other automakers, Toyota Connected plans to use data and Microsoft’s cloud computing to deliver services effortlessly and seamlessly to drivers. Toyota Connected is a new start-up that includes 5-percent ownership by Microsoft, though Toyota will tap other companies for their capabilities, and Microsoft will continue to offer its services to other automakers. Hicks cited a number of other examples of how Toyota Connected could work. It could monitor the driver’s heart rate through the steering wheel or weight through sensors in the seat, information that could be shared with the driver’s doctor. The driver may be on the way to the office and encounter a traffic jam and simultaneously need for gas. The car would find a gas station, and an alternate route, while sending an email to the office to notify co-workers that the driver will arrive 15 minutes late.

The car may notice that weather conditions are causing the anti-lock brakes to engage more frequently than usual. The car could then warn traffic behind as well as share the information with government agencies, such as police departments. Insurance premiums could eventually be based on a driver’s behavior instead of a pool of drivers.

The Nitty Gritty

Toyota Connected officials could not say when these services would be available. It hopes to have its first one for consumers within a year. Likely the first will be the ability to perform security patches to the car via the cloud. Toyota also has not determined if and how consumers would be charged for services. However, Hicks said it’s likely they will be offered like a menu for drivers to pick and choose. For privacy and security, drivers would have to opt in to such services.

In the future, Toyota Connected likely would play a key role in Toyota’s future mobility plans that would include autonomous vehicles. For the short term, said Hicks, “Toyota Connected will help free our customers from the tyranny of technology. It will make lives easier and help us to return to our humanity.”


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