Instead of going the route of other manufacturers and teaming up with a telematics company to offer tracking and other services in-vehicle, Toyota has developed its own, known as T-Connect, which will begin rolling out this summer on some of its new vehicles in Japan.
T-Connect isn’t some brand new system though, but an improvement on Toyota’s already established G-Book service. It adds a bunch of new features which Toyota is hoping will help differentiate its offerings from those of its competitors.
The first and most obvious one is its voice command system. While this is something we’ve seen in other in-car platforms like Apple’s CarPlay, it doesn’t require a smartphone to operate. T-Connect has a built in “agent,” just like Siri, that can handle questions about locations, news and can even help you out if you’re confused about something in the vehicle itself. Just ask it how something works and it’ll tell you. It’ll even start to predict things about you as it gets used to you. For example, if you head to work the same way every morning, it’ll start to plot out your route for you, even checking to see if there’s traffic and offering an alternative if there is one – all the while chatting away to you and keeping you updated.
This is all an upgrade of the human service that was used with G-Book, meaning that if there’s ever a problem the Agent can’t handle, it hands off to a human operator.
T-Connect also adds a new service for downloading applications to the car. They’re all available through the main T-Connect app, which splits them up into categories like driving assistance, information, communication and lifestyle. This should mean that your new in-car system is kept updated with all the latest functions as the years roll on.
To encourage developers to make apps for its vehicles, Toyota has created an open development environment and will be sending out SDKs to app developers that show an interest. However, Toyota will reserve executive approval for the apps before making them available to customers.
While there is a focus on in-car functionality though, Toyota has also made its own smartphone app, so if you want some extra function it’s there. Likewise you can take calls and send texts using the agent software through the car, while it’s linked up to your phone. However it works the other way too. The phone app can view information about the car, so if you’re in the office and wonder how much petrol you have left, you can just look at your phone. Likewise for things like tyre pressure, route history and other car-metrics that might help you plan your day or journey that bit better.
If you’re worried about data, then never fear, as Toyota has made all T-Connect equipped vehicles WiFi devices, meaning you can connect up to local hotspots or to your home or office wireless and that way you don’t chew through your entire data package in a few hours.
This service will be launching this summer in Japan. No word on an international release as of yet.