AT&T Brings 4G Connectivity to Additional Toyota, Lexus Models

AT&T, KDDI and Toyota are teaming up to bring 4G LTE connectivity to a new range of Toyota and Lexus cars and trucks.

Planned features include WiFi hotspots to allow for streaming, browsing and sharing entertainment on multiple mobile devices from the open road, combined with unlimited data plans for select Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

The package, which the three companies announced at the CES expo this week, also boasts features like vehicle diagnostics, Safety Connect and remote start, as well as Destination Assist, which automatically downloads vehicle destinations to navigation systems.

“Consumers want connectivity for their vehicles for diagnostics, security, and infotainment, but most vehicles on the road today don’t have it,” Brian Greaves, director of product management for AT&T Internet of Things Solutions, told TU-Automotive in an email.

He explained data analysis and decision capabilities will be largely processed onboard the vehicle, utilizing various data sources from the vehicles and the surrounding intelligent transportation system.

“One of the most exciting aspects of automated vehicles is their ability to learn from other vehicles’ driving experiences in ways that human drivers simply cannot,” Greaves continued.

He added that 5G connectivity would eventually allow for the necessary distribution of processed data to meet and exceed the needs of the automated vehicle.

The shared ecosystem will build on the joint Global Communications Platform announced by Toyota and KDDI in 2016 to support car connectivity.

“The algorithms that govern AV operation could be continually improved as automated vehicles encounter new driving situations,” Greaves noted. “For those improvements to be made, data must be collected, analyzed, and synthesized into improved algorithms to then be distributed to other vehicles.”

He said 5G would ultimately help create faster and more efficient exchange of this data, allowing these automated vehicles to distribute and receive data and function even better.

Overall, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity technologies are designed to help driverless vehicles to make virtually real-time decisions based on information that goes beyond the individual sensors onboard the vehicle itself.

Vehicles will be able to “see” around corners, in front and behind other vehicles, and at greater distances than ever before.

“This will eventually allow vehicles to quickly make sense of their surrounding environment as well as the road ahead to help guide safe and efficient operations on the road,” Greaves noted.

For self-driving cars to interoperate with their environment and surrounding areas, it will be critical to have connectivity between vehicles, roadside units, pedestrians and other infrastructure elements while navigating the roadways.

“Self-driving cars and 5G will ultimately usher in new opportunities for in-vehicle entertainment and engagement when drivers have more time on their hands,” Greaves said. “5G multi-gigabit speeds, distributed edge networks, and low latency services can help these capabilities to become a reality in years to come.”

AT&T and Harman recently teamed up on Spark, which plugs into the on-board diagnostics port (OBD II) beneath the steering wheel and works with most 1996 models and newer.

Users get the standard features plus in-app payments, on-demand roadside assistance, driving tips and more, and features get added automatically.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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