Being connected is something that is so commonplace these days that we take it for granted. Rapid-fire posting on Twitter, uploading a selfie on Instagram, sharing a VISOR article on Facebook—talking to a wide audience is now a very simple task. And when these get reshared, liked or commented on, it satisfies the human desire for interaction with other people. Toyota responds to this innate yearning for being part of a society by creating products that may well be the blueprint of things to come.
The recently launched Corolla Sport hatchback and Crown luxury sedan are the first of what Toyota calls “connected cars.” Essentially, these are automobiles that have the capability to become part of a system that continuously exchanges information with other entities within said system. For Toyota owners, this means an uninterrupted connection with other customers, the dealership and the manufacturer. Driving used to be just a simple driver-and-machine relationship. With connected cars, reaching out to society from the confines of an automobile is now made easy and convenient.
At the heart of each connected car is a Data Communication Module (DCM). Sort of like a GPS device and an aircraft black box rolled into one, a DCM collects several pieces of data from the car it’s fitted to. These could be anything from the vehicle’s health to its current location and intended destination. The data collected from the DCM is fed into the Mobility Services Platform (MSPF). The MSPF is a suite of various support systems offered by Toyota to those who subscribe to its T-Connect application. With the MSPF, customers can avail of different services from the comfort of their car.
Here are some of the services that Crown and Corolla Sport owners in Japan will have access to:
- e-Care Driving Guidance – Real-time troubleshooting advisories in the event of a vehicle breakdown;
- e-Care Health Check Report – An extension of the dashboard which gives detailed indications of various vehicle parameters;
- MyToyota for T-Connect Driving Diagnosis – Gives out scores and guidance based on driving habits for the purposes of eco-friendly motoring;
- Helpnet – Automatically alerts the authorities and emergency services in case of an accident;
- Operator Service – Various requests from the driver may be accommodated by a team of dedicated call-center agents; and
- Line My Car Account – A car version of the Line instant messaging app can perform several in-car functions and interact with other Line users.
Still, even with all the technology present in both vehicles, Toyota recognizes the need for an emotional link that humans long for in any form of interaction. For instance, most of us insist on customer service that “should always be provided by people.” This is why a 24/7 concierge has been put up so that a customer call or request can be accommodated on a personal (or human) level. This bridges the emotional gap created when one would simply use a machine or a computer. Toyota believes that such a system would satisfy its patrons’ need for peace of mind.
Toyota has long-term goals for its “connected cars” technology. Aside from providing buyers of the Corolla Sport and the Crown with a free three-year subscription to the T-Connect service, Toyota aims to have DCMs installed on most new car models moving forward. Humans have always dreamed of a seamless link between the real and virtual worlds. With connected cars, such aspirations—at least in the motoring context—are no longer a distant reality.