Toyota displays Mirai-based research vehicle with satellite communications function; Kymeta flat-panel antennae
At the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Toyota is displaying a research vehicle based on the Mirai fuel cell vehicle which is equipped with satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a US-based company that is the world's leader in flat-panel antenna technology.
Toyota is working to enhance its connected technologies, including a plan to install a Data Communication Module into a broader range of its vehicles. (Earlier post.) The company is also considering using satellite communications in the future, including high capacity satellites that offer much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies.
|Mirai research vehicle with Kymeta flat-panel antennae in the roof. Click to enlarge.|
While these satellites have historically required the use of a parabolic dish antenna on the ground, Kymeta’s satellite antennae remove the need for mechanical components by using software and liquid crystal technologies to electronically track and steer towards satellites. The lightweight, flat profile of the antenna also allows for seamless integration during vehicle assembly or easy aftermarket installation.
Satellite communications offer several key benefits to meet automotive needs, Toyota said, including:
the distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle;
broad coverage areas and the global deployment of connected vehicles that share common standards across national borders; and
more stable and secure communications, particularly in emergencies such as natural disasters.
Kymeta is the first company to successfully demonstrate this type of technology, said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, CEO of Kymeta, and has logged more than 8,000 miles of road testing with cars connected to satellites.
Since September 2013, Toyota and Kymeta have been jointly researching on-car flat antennae to support satellite distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle. With an exclusive right for development and testing of the on-car antenna, Toyota lent the company research vehicles for test driving. The Mirai displayed at NAIAS represents the progress of these efforts.
Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, a fund where Toyota participates as an investor, provided an investment of US$5 million to Kymeta this month to enhance future technology research and development. Toyota expects acceleration of the joint research with Kymeta through the investment.
Kymeta’s mTenna suite of products uses tunable electromagnetic metamaterial elements arranged in a precisely calculated pattern. Electromagnetic metamaterials result from arranging man-made materials in such a way that they produce an electromagnetic response not found in nature.
The Kymeta electromagnetic metamaterial technology uses a holographic approach to electronically acquire, steer, and lock a beam to any satellite, with no moving parts. Radio frequency (RF) energy is scattered when the elements are activated holographically, generating a beam. The direction of the beam is defined by the specific elements that are electronically activated—a design that allows for both continuous and instantaneous changes in direction.
The software-driven antennae can rapidly and smoothly acquire and switch satellites in a fast-moving LEO constellation without dropping the connection.