Toyota’s Connected, App-Filled Future

Shortly after buying our Highlander, I was invited to join something called Toyota Owner’s Intersection. This is basically an online focus group that lets you provide feedback on future product changes/offerings.

Being the curious guy that I am, I went ahead and signed up. They’ve incentivized participation with the possibility of winning a $100 Amazon gift card, but the reward for me comes in knowing what they’re thinking.

While working through the latest survey (they’re pretty short, in the 8-10 minute range), I realized that some of you might likewise be interested in knowing where Toyota is headed. Am I right? Thought so. 😉

Unfortunately, I was already already partway done when I thought of this. Moreover, I couldn’t figure out how to pull the questions back up after I’d dismissed them. So what follows is a summary based mostly on memory…

Connections galore

For starters, they asked about driving habits (time spent and # of trips) during various weekday/weekend time windows. Not too interesting, but… Then the questions turned to a series of “connectivity-related” features.

They asked about things like:

  • built-in “Local Offers” functionality;
  • an integrated insurance discount monitor;
  • notification of traffic-related incidents (wrecks, construction, etc.);
  • automated crash notification (subscription based);
  • automated analysis of your driving behavior (to improve mpg, etc.);
  • the ability to remotely report engine codes to a local dealer; and
  • the ability to schedule service visits via the infotainment system.

And probably a couple other things that I’m forgetting.

In each case, they were interested in knowing how appealing the feature was, how likely I would be to opt-in, and what effect its availability would have on my perception of Toyota as a company.

Existing alternatives

For the most part, I found these things to be redundant with features that I already have (and can more easily update) on my phone. For example…

Local offers? Not interested, and there are already tons of mobile options.

Notification of upcoming traffic incidents? I use Waze.

Insurance discounts? Pretty much all the major insurers already have their own system. Progressive has Snapshot, Allstate has Drivewise, State Farm has Drive Safe and Save, etc.

Crash reporting? Interesting, but there’s an annual subscription fee of $140. Instead, you could spend under $100 for something like the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant and have no ongoing fees.

Automated analysis of driving habits? Once again, interesting. But if you buy an Automatic device for crash reporting, you’ll get this info, too.

Engine codes? Here again, Automatic offers push notification with an interpretation of the associated engine code(s). Or you could get one of the many OBD2 scanners that are readily available.

And the ability to use your car to make a service appointment? Well, I have a phone for that. And I think that really sums it up…

I have a smartphone (an iPhone to be exact) that does pretty much everything I need. So, instead of re-inventing the wheel (as they’ve already done with Entune), why not build better smartphone integration?

Going app-crazy?

From there, the survey turned to questions about specific apps, including:

  • AAA
  • Amazon Prime
  • Audible.com
  • Glympse
  • Parkopedia
  • Reuters

It seems that they’re interested in the possibility of offering onboard trip planning & discounts (AAA), music streaming (Amazon, though “Prime” is technically a service and not an app), audiobooks (Audible), location sharing (Glympse), parking finding (Parkopedia), and news (Reuters).

Here again, I have to ask… Why reinvent the wheel? Why build a walled garden of specific apps when you could instead build an awesome phone interface that leaves the details up to the user?

The solution could be something like Apple’s CarPlay (which is reportedly on Toyota’s radar), or maybe a more generic system that mirrors your iPhone or Android device to the video screen.

In the end, it’s probably just that I’m really underwhelmed by Entune, and I’m afraid that they’ll continue heading in that direction. Instead of building a glitchy, restricted system, why not build one that puts the power in my hands and otherwise gets out of the way? Please?

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Technology & Infotainment
1 comment… add one
  • Lan Oct 11, 2014

    I’m currently waiting for my highlander (limited- I really want those cooled seats) to be built, but what I really wanted was a 4Runner. But I fell in love with the luxuries the highlander offers (which I consider basics)- 1) vents in the head liner. I grew up in Alaska and thanks to Uncle Sam we are in Georgia and I’m complaining about the heat 365 days a year 😉 and love the feeling of cool air blowing down from above. 2) I love that in the highlander the 2nd row passengers can control their air with no input from me. That’s my biggest pet peave in our 2007 Honda Pilot.

    Maybe Toyota will make those changes and 10 years from now I can buy a 4-Runner 🙂

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