Well Connected

Just what is Toyota Connected? CEO Zack Hicks breaks it down
by Dan Nied
July/August 2016
Well Connected
So what exactly is Toyota Connected?

Pretty much everything we as individuals do today emits data. And we really should be leveraging it to make better cars and create better experiences for our customers. That’s Toyota Connected.

Our cars now and in the future will emit and provide us with data. We’ll have cameras on the outside. Cars will be capable of telling us what radio stations and songs people actually listen to in their vehicle. Our cars will be able to tell us other things, like customers’ travel patterns.

That’s stuff we’re doing now?

It’s stuff we have the capability to do now. We’ve proven the capabilities internally, but now it’s time for us to do something amazing with it. This is about taking that data and making it work for the customer in ways that the customer wants. And customers can choose to take advantage of these advancements.
So one example that comes to mind, every time I get into my car, my phone...

Your phone tells you where you’re going!

Is that kind of a model for Toyota Connected?

It’s a great example. And, you chose to receive this information on your navigation app. You may not know you made this choice but you did. With Toyota, it’s going to be more explicit to opt in. But otherwise, it’s the same concept–but we’re going to make it even better.
When you get in your car, you shouldn’t have to program in a destination. Based on your driving patterns and preferences, we believe we'll be able to guide you to your destination and help you avoid traffic. So that’s how we can use data to make a customer’s life better.

We can also tell when you’re driving outside your normal patterns. With today’s technology, we can guess with 80 percent accuracy when you’re not going home. So how can we make that worthwhile? If we know you really like the Dallas Cowboys, and we know there’s a game that day, and you’re traveling in the general direction of the stadium, we can predict with 80 percent accuracy that you’re going to the Cowboys game. We can say, “Looks like you’re going to AT&T Stadium, do you want us to route you around traffic and prepay your parking?”

How are we going to know if I like the Cowboys?

Well, if you've allowed us to access your public social media posts, we might know that. Public social media posts tell us a lot. We can subscribe to social media feeds, and we do that now. That way we can hear the voice of our customer. Now, if somebody posts something private, we won’t see that at all.

So it’s just using the information customers volunteer to give us?

Right. Many of the music-streaming companies and radio stations are doing that today. They’re monitoring how long their customers are on a station or on a certain song. And if the customer changes the channel during the same song, a lot of music streaming services will just stop playing that song for you. So it’s the same type of technology.

How do we communicate that this is not going to be intrusive, but will be helpful?

Toyota complies with the auto industry's privacy code of conduct. Part of that commitment is being transparent with our customers about data we collect, use, share and retain. People are willing to share their data if they’re going to get something that’s a better value in exchange. But we also have a responsibility to not do something damaging with that data. We can’t just give it to somebody else. And the customers have to know that if we’re going to give it to somebody else, it’s for value. Today when you get a flat tire and you push the SOS button, we’re sending data to either AAA or another service provider. But we don’t want to give it to a marketing firm and have them do something that betrays our customers’ trust.
We’ve heard you use the term “tyranny of technology.” What does that mean?

We want to make technology easier for people. Today, there are so many apps and devices, and it’s overwhelming. Our devices should be a means to an end versus being the destination. In restaurants, you see families staring at their devices and not even talking to each other. That’s the tyranny of technology.

We aim to take the available technology and put it in the background, and then make it more of a digital concierge. Then we’re taking the device away from the person and giving them the answers that they need and more time back in their day.

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