Toyota and minority equity partner Microsoft revealed April 4 that they will go in together to launch a new company, Toyota Connected, to focus on developing mobile software and services for connected vehicles.
Toyota also said the new company, to be located in Plano, Texas, will serve as a data science hub for its global operations and will provide support for a range of projects in an effort to make driving a more “humanizing” experience. Microsoft will be a 5 percent stakeholder in Toyota Connected.
For example, artificial intelligence software will be added to cars so that they recognize well-traveled routes by drivers. In this way, the car will be able to recommend alternate routes ahead of time in case of a traffic tie-up; suggest locations along the route for obtaining fuel and food; and even remind drivers to pick up groceries and other supplies if those vendors are located on the same route. In the latter case, the car would need to be connected to the kitchen refrigerator by a cloud app.
Toyota said it will use data science applications running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology to develop these predictive and contextual services. Microsoft engineers will work with Toyota Connected in the new facility, providing continuous support across technology areas and using a range of data analytics and mobile programs.
Toyota Connected eventually will adopt Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform to deploy a hybrid solution globally. This will allow Toyota Connected to centralize company initiatives across a range of emerging tech fields. Program areas will include in-car services and telematics, home/Internet of things (IoT) connectivity, personalization, safety, smart city integration, and other data services for Toyota affiliates, dealers and fleet services.
Zack Hicks, CEO of Toyota Connected and CIO at Toyota Motor North America, used some colorful language in a statement to the press on a conference call.
“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,” Hicks said. “From telematics services that learn from your habits and preferences, to use-based insurance pricing models that respond to actual driving patterns, to connected vehicle networks that can share road condition and traffic information, our goal is to deliver services that make lives easier.”
Toyota Connected will have two mandates: to develop IoT-related services and use data analytics to support product development for customers, dealers, distributors and partners. The new company will consolidate Toyota initiatives involving data center management, data analytics and data-driven services development.
Toyota has never been involved in data center management, data analytics and data-driven services, so this is a major fork in the road, so to speak, for the world’s largest car manufacturer.