Toyota teams with Microsoft on connected cars – USA TODAY
Toyota announced an enhanced relationship with Microsoft on Monday aimed at delivering “connected car” services to drivers in ways they probably never could have imagined.
For instance, artificial-intelligence features could be added to cars that allow them to know where the car is going and offer services drivers might want along the way. Going to the baseball game this weekend? The car might detect the route a driver normally takes and recommend restaurants for a pre-game lunch.
Toyota Connected, as the partnership will be known, “will help free our customers from the tyranny of technology. It will make lives easier and help us to return to our humanity,” said Zack Hicks, the chief information officer of Toyota Motor North America who was appointed CEO of Toyota Connected.
Already, drivers ask the infotainment system in their cars for restaurant recommendations, but many locations often would require that a driver turn around. But with Toyota Connected, the system might be modified to only recommend restaurants on the highway ahead — and then only the kinds of food that the driver usually prefers.
The services offered can be tailored to individual customers. “We don’t want to dump everything on everyone,” said Sandy Lobenstein, executive vice president of Toyota Connected. “The whole is idea is getting to know our customers better.”
Road information can be delivered to drivers based on driving patterns — knowing the routes they usually take. Auto insurance could be priced more accurately because the system could report on a driver’s actual miles and routes traveled.
Medical-related sensors could also be built into the car, like heartbeat monitors or sensors on the steering wheel. Some of the services could be offered to customers wirelessly by being beamed directly into their cars, but Lobenstein said that customer privacy considerations will be paramount.
Toyota Connected hopes to have its first products within a year. The ultimate objective is to “help to humanize the driving experience while pushing the technology into the background,” Toyota said in a statement.
Microsoft has worked with Toyota since 2011. It will hold a minority ownership stake in the venture, Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said in an email.
Plano, Texas-based Toyota Connected will include the Japanese automaker’s scientists and Microsoft engineers working side by side to advance data-based solutions to the auto industry’s challenges.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.