Let’s face it, when it comes to Toyota, everyone here is always skeptical because whenever there is a new offering in terms of say, the new Vios or the New Altis, the one thing people are always expecting is that Toyota tends to stick to the mantra, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That shows in their use of their engines for numerous years and the age old gearbox which tends to stick around longer than most models.
So it is a little bit of a welcome when Toyota Motor Corporation announced that they are rolling out several new technologies. Mind you, it is still meant to be used in Japan first but it is a welcome sight for them.
Toyota Motor Corporation will this summer in Japan begin rolling out “T-Connect”, an innovative new telematics service, along with compatible navigation systems and a smartphone app. Toyota sees T-Connect as an exciting way to help bring about its vision for smarter, future mobility in which people, cars and cities are linked.
T-Connect improves on Toyota’s current “G-BOOK” service in several key ways: in addition to interactive voice response, it features a service that allows third-party apps to be downloaded to the car’s navigation system and an online help service that integrates and improves on the functions currently provided by G-BOOK.
1. Interactive voice response service
T-Connect features an interactive voice response service called “Agent”. Agent handles queries about locations and news, and can also provide vehicle usage support. In addition, Agent provides a predictive information service, using data from user route history to predict the car’s destination. Based on the predicted destination, Agent provides voice guidance on relevant traffic accidents, congestion, weather and road surface conditions, and can even recommend gas stations along the predicted route if necessary. The service registers user preferences, and will suggest preferred stores and events along the predicted route.
Agent is an automated version of the human operator service used by G-BOOK. It was developed with drivers in mind and supports conversational, open-ended queries, such as: “I want to go a noodle restaurant near here”, or “Find me somewhere with an open parking lot”. If Agent is unable to process a query, it is handed over to a human operator.
2. Service for downloading apps to the car’s navigation system
T-Connect allows users to download compatible apps straight to their in-car navigation systems. The T-Connect app store offers a variety of apps in four categories: driving assistance, information, communication, and lifestyle.
As these apps will be developed and provided by third party organizations, Toyota has created an open development environment called Toyota Open Vehicle Architecture (TOVA), and is providing software development kits to prospective app developers. Following approval by Toyota, apps will be hosted on the T-Connect app store. A payment framework has been put in place, allowing developers to charge for their apps.
3. Improved online help service
Existing services currently provided by G-BOOK (such as emergency call services, traffic information services and map updates) will continue to be provided through T-Connect’s “Online Care” service. Beginning this autumn, the “T-Probe” traffic information service will offer more complete information thanks to the inclusion of data being sent in real time from Toyota’s logistics vehicles.
4. Wi-Fi connectivity
To make these services even easier to use, T-Connect navigation systems come with Wi-Fi connectivity as standard. Customers can use their smartphones or participating Wi-Fi spots (at about 200,000 locations throughout Japan provided by “au”, a Japanese telecoms provider) to connect to various services available through the Toyota Smart Center. In addition, users can connect via optional on-board data communication modules.
5. T-Connect smartphone app
Customers can also access the Agent and Online Care services on the go using the T-Connect smartphone app. Also, by using the app in conjunction with the T-Connect services on their in-car navigation screens, users can enjoy even more advanced services. In addition to viewing gas mileage, travel distance and route history from smartphones, users can now take driving directions with them when they leave their cars. Soon, users will be able to benefit from a wide variety of dedicated T-Connect smartphone apps that provide helpful information based on car status, route history and other key data.
Lexus vehicles will be equipped with navigation systems compatible with new “G-Link” features, providing a service similar to T-Connect. Vehicles will come with on-board data communication modules as standard. Furthermore, existing navigation services will continue to operate as they have up until now.