Toyota’s new telematics service features interactive voice response, third-party apps; Toyota Open Vehicle Architecture
Toyota Motor Corporation will this summer in Japan begin rolling out “T-Connect”, a new telematics service, along with compatible navigation systems and a smartphone app. T-Connect improves on Toyota’s current “G-BOOK” service in several key ways: in addition to interactive voice response, it features a service that allows third-party apps to be downloaded to the car’s navigation system and an online help service that integrates and improves on the functions currently provided by G-BOOK.
T-Connect features an interactive voice response service called “Agent”. Agent handles queries about locations and news, and can also provide vehicle usage support. In addition, Agent provides a predictive information service, using data from user route history to predict the car’s destination. Based on the predicted destination, Agent provides voice guidance on relevant traffic accidents, congestion, weather and road surface conditions, and can even recommend gas stations along the predicted route if necessary. The service registers user preferences, and will suggest preferred stores and events along the predicted route.
Agent is an automated version of the human operator service used by G-BOOK. It was developed with drivers in mind and supports conversational, open-ended queries, such as: “I want to go a noodle restaurant near here”, or “Find me somewhere with an open parking lot”. If Agent is unable to process a query, it is handed over to a human operator.
T-Connect also allows users to download compatible apps straight to their in-car navigation systems. The T-Connect app store offers a variety of apps in four categories: driving assistance, information, communication, and lifestyle.
As these apps will be developed and provided by third party organizations, Toyota has created an open development environment called Toyota Open Vehicle Architecture (TOVA), and is providing software development kits to prospective app developers. Following approval by Toyota, apps will be hosted on the T-Connect app store. A payment framework has been put in place, allowing developers to charge for their apps.
Existing services currently provided by G-BOOK (such as emergency call services, traffic information services and map updates) will continue to be provided through T-Connect’s “Online Care” service. Beginning this autumn, the “T-Probe” traffic information service will offer more complete information thanks to the inclusion of data being sent in real time from Toyota’s logistics vehicles.
T-Connect navigation systems come with Wi-Fi connectivity as standard. Customers can use their smartphones or participating Wi-Fi spots (at about 200,000 locations throughout Japan provided by “au”, a Japanese telecoms provider) to connect to various services available through the Toyota Smart Center. In addition, users can connect via optional on-board data communication modules.
Customers can also access the Agent and Online Care services on the go using the T-Connect smartphone app. Also, by using the app in conjunction with the T-Connect services on their in-car navigation screens, users can enjoy even more advanced services. In addition to viewing gas mileage, travel distance and route history from smartphones, users can now take driving directions with them when they leave their cars. An envisioned wide variety of dedicated T-Connect smartphone apps will provide helpful information based on car status, route history and other key data.
Lexus vehicles will be equipped with navigation systems compatible with new “G-Link” features, providing a service similar to T-Connect. Vehicles will come with on-board data communication modules as standard. Existing navigation services will continue to operate as they have up until now.