Toyota At CES: More Smartphones, More Telematics, More Robots

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The future of smartphone-connected and autonomous cars at Toyota is being mapped out at this week’s CES in Las Vegas.

Toyota says will join forces with Ford and tech company Livio to deliver the next generation of smartphone services to its vehicles–and it’s working on developing the long-term future of artificial intelligence as it relates to transportation.

The Japanese automaker said at CES that it would adopt the Livio SmartDeviceLink (SDL) that’s being implemented across the Ford lineup, as a way to integrate new smartphone app-based services and a new telematics system yet to be detailed.

The partnership is a distinct layer, separate from Ford’s Sync3 system and from Toyota’s own Entune and Lexus Enform infotainment interfaces. Those will continue to run most of the hardware built into Toyota, Scion, and Lexus cars–functions related to audio systems, phone and climate functions.

It’s also distinct from navigation: separately, Toyota also has inked a deal with Scout GPS Link for navigation services that will be piped into Toyota’s vehicles via data services.

The SDL open-source platform, as in other vehicles, will be able to use touchscreen and voice-command inputs to run smartphone-driven applications.

In doing the deal with Ford and Livio, Toyota once again has decided against allowing Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay to take up space in its vehicles–in part, it suggests, because Toyota believes it should have more control over the safety-related concerns introduced by smartphone apps.

Toyota executive vice president Shigeki Terashi says his company hopes other automakers will also adopt the SDL interface, since it allows automakers to ensure a higher degree of safety than non-automotive platforms like Android Auto or CarPlay can–for instance, blocking touchscreen-driven inputs when the vehicle is moving. Over time, if more automakers adopt SDL, it would lead to apps and services common to many more vehicles.

Ford and Toyota have been collaborating on telematics since 2011, but the SDL agreement is the first major piece of technology to emerge from the deal.

Big Data’s big step forward

The next step for Toyota will be to build in data communications into more vehicles, which it plans to do starting with the 2017 model year.

Beginning then, Toyota says it will fit a new data-communications module (DCM) in much of its vehicle lineup, with the goal being to deliver a more robust information stream from the vehicle to the outside world–everything from a new big-data hub it’s building, to other vehicles in anticipation of vehicle-to-vehicle safety technology.

The hardware will allow Toyota to fit its vehicles with an embedded data connection, which will immediately spin off services such as standard emergency notifications, which cues first responders when a vehicle’s airbags are deployed.

By 2019, Toyota says it will have one DCM standard for every vehicle it sells, regardless of global region.

Robots, robots, robots

Looking at the horizon for connected and autonomous cars, Toyota is keying up a new collaboration with MIT and Stanford to ensure that its future vehicles meet the challenges of a connected-car era, and incorporate lessons learned from artificial intelligence.

The automaker will spend $ 1 billion over five years to staff teams in Palo Alto, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass. The teams will be charged with leading Toyota into an autonomous-driving era in which the automaker wants to create a car “that cannot be responsible for a collision.”

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