Weekly Brief: Toyota goes all in with new connected car division

In this week’s Brief: Toyota, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Audi, Consumer Electronics Show, Baidu, Google, Octo Telematics, Apple, MirrorLink, Geneva Motor Show, Mobile World Congress, Volkswagen, Toyota, Seat, Skoda, PSA, Samsung, Magneti Marelli, Citroën, BMW, eCall, FUJITSU TEN LIMITED, Giesecke & Devrient, Sierra Wireless and Rohde & Schwarz.

Laggard would be harsh. During the past five years, Toyota has taken some strides to embrace the connected car, like with its introductory infotainment system Entune or with the more tech-forward Toyota Intelligent System. But when it’s come to making connected technology the core of the Toyota brand, and leading the way with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technology, Toyota has been conspicuously absent.

No more. Last week Toyota announced (albeit in characteristically hushed tones) the formation of a new connected vehicle department whose aim will be to coordinate connected technology across the auto giant and ensure that it’s central to the brand moving forward. The department will oversee Toyota’s pursuit of autonomous driving technology and the integration of this technology as commercially available ADAS features in the near future.

The new department will be headed up by Shigeki Terashi, former president and CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

In other news, remember that Audi that drove itself from San Francisco to Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January? Audi says the same technology will appear in the 2017 Audi A8 as a feature called “Traffic Jam Pilot.” As the name suggests, the technology will stop short of full self-driving capabilities; however, the car will kick into pilot mode when it detects a traffic jam at speeds under 60 mph. The same mix of infrared sensors, radar and cameras that we detailed back in January will provide the vehicle with latitudinal and longitudinal direction.

Two other brief news items on the self-driving front:

Audi launched the Autonomous Driving Cup, which will challenge teams of engineering students to design software that allows a miniature Audi car to drive itself around an obstacle course. The first competition kicks off at Audi’s automobile museum, “Museum Mobile,” in Ingolstadt, Germany, at the end of March.

The CEO of Chinese internet search engine giant Baidu says that his company may have a self-driving car on the road in pilots this year, although he was light on the details. Baidu has previously suggested that its car will use autonomous driving technology to complement drivers behind the wheel, rather than replace them altogether, as Internet rival Google intends to do.

Shifting to insurance telematics, Octo Telematics announced Rider 1, the first telematics-based insurance product for motorcycles in Europe. Rider 1 provides motorbike drivers Pay As You Drive coverage based on the type of roads they drive. It also allows insurance companies to offer Pay Per Use premiums calculated via the total distance driven annually or on the period of the day during which the vehicle is routinely used. Rider 1 includes a series of value-added services like motorbike geo-location and emergency service requests for serious accidents.

Magneti Marelli posted a run of impressive results in the Car of the Year 2015 award at the Geneva Motor Show. Magneti Marelli solutions were present in five of the seven finalists, including LED rear lights and a motorised throttle for the winner, the Volkswagen Passat. Magneti Marelli multimedia infotainment systems helped edge two other entries into the prestigious finalist circle: the Citroën C4 Cactus and the BMW Series 2 Active Tourer. Chicken or the egg? You be the judge.

MirrorLink emerged as a star of the Geneva Motor Show and Mobile World Congress, as carmakers Volkswagen, Toyota, Seat, Skoda and PSA and mobile-device-maker Samsung all announced respective MirrorLink integrations. Apple was clearly taking note, as CEO Tim Cook turned around at its annual Spring Forward press conference and boasted that Apple CarPlay is forthcoming on 40 models within the year and that every major carmaker has committed to the infotainment standard. Details were hazy about the models, but the race for infotainment operating systems primacy is clearly kicking into high season.


Finally, tired of hearing about incessant eCall delays? Move to Russia. Political volatility and power grabs aside, Russia now boasts a fully functioning eCall equivalent in ERA-GLONASS, which automatically delivers info of a crash to local public safety answering points, allowing for immediate response to serious auto accidents. As of January 1, 2015, all new car models introduced to the Russian market must be equipped with the automatic ERA GLONASS emergency call system.


Action is heating up from telematics suppliers in Europe and Asia catering to the new system. Japan’s FUJITSU TEN LIMITED already has a solution on market. in Germany, Giesecke & Devrient has partnered up with Sierra Wireless for a Russian solution, and Rohde & Schwarz demonstrated an ERA-GLONASS test setup and vector signal generator at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

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