Why Toyota Was Smart to Snub Apple, Google
Nov. 05, 2016
When Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto were first introduced over two years ago, most automakers quickly signed on to add the tech companies' smartphone integration platform to bolster their own similar although mostly mediocre systems. But as the world's largest automaker, Toyota was conspicuously absent in welcoming Apple and Google into its dashboards.
It's not difficult to understand why Toyota had reservations about bringing them onboard. And these concerns soon surfaced among automakers that second-guessed the wisdom of giving up valuable dashboard branding and—more importantly—driver data to the two tech giants.
Now that Google and Apple's self-driving car projects have hit speed bumps, the companies appear to be pivoting towards providing software for automotive purposes and looking to further integrate dashboards. And Toyota's decision to not only shun CarPlay and Android Auto but also develop its own connected car platform looks smart.
This week, Toyota announced a comprehensive connectivity plan called the Mobility Service Platform that covers everything from car sharing to cloud-based analytics, and it's being developed in-house by a creatively named subsidiary called Connected Car Company. "To guarantee the safety of the customer, the manufacturer must be the platform provider," said Connected Car Company president Shigeki Tomoyama.
Instead of being tied to one or two dominant tech providers, Toyota is partnering with several different companies. It's working with long-term partner KDDI, the Japanese telecom that has for years provided connectivity for the automaker's G-Book telematics system. Its cloud services are provided by Microsoft, with which Toyota recently deepened its relationship, while the platform will run on the Automotive Grade Linux open-source software.
Toyota has already even joined with a rival automaker Ford to develop apps. And it's clear that the automaker plans to leaves Apple and Google out in the cold and out of the car.
Toyota's In-House Connected Car Efforts So what can we expect Toyota's in-house connected car efforts to yield, and how will it differ or be better than CarPlay or Android Auto? While Toyota's Entune infotainment system is one of the best available based on our tests, it still relies on third-party apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Yelp, which are common in many cars.
Last year, Toyota announced it would work with the Ford-developed SmartDeviceLink and the US automaker to develop in-house as well as third-party apps for its cars via a Toyota-supplied API. This not only would allow Toyota to supply apps similar to those used by CarPlay and Android Auto, such as for music and mapping, but also tap a car's data, systems, and sensors to create features and functions that the Apple and Google smartphone-based platforms can't.
For example, by tying into a car's engine diagnostics, Toyota or a third party could develop an app that explains what a "Check Engine" light or other warning means and even set up service if required. And by tying into a car's traction control system, an app could detect when a car hydroplanes on standing water or skids on a patch of black ice and send the info to other vehicles approaching the area.
Toyota isn't alone in building up a tech bulwark against a potential incursion by Apple and Google. Renault/Nissan recently announced a similar connected car platform with Microsoft Azure, and this week Ford partnered with BlackBerry to develop software for the automaker's connected vehicles. And last year, the three German luxury car rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz circled the wagons to purchase the digital mapping company Here for $3.1 billion, in part to bring the mapping capability in-house, but also keep it out of the hands of Apple and others.
So while Toyota was the odd man out when CarPlay and Android Auto were first announced, its wait-and-see attitude and keeping its dashboards Apple- and Google-free could pay off.