Toyota Motor North America claims “an exceptional in-car user experience” for its new multimedia system developed locally after its Connected Technologies group was formed in 2018.
The new group aimed to unify customer experience, in-vehicle technology, value chain and connected revenue process – functions previously scattered across the organisation. Connected Technologies invested in the expansion by building a cross-functional team of 400 staff and business partners.
“With the new multimedia system, we focused on the needs and wants of the customer and what would enable a more seamless and enjoyable experience on the road,” said Charan Lota, executive chief engineer and vice president at TMNA Connected Technologies. “We brought multiple groups from electrical engineering to software development and business planning together into one team with one common goal – enhancing the in-vehicle experience.”
The result is “true collaboration across the TMNA Connected Technologies group as well as with teams from partner companies Toyota Connected and Toyota Motor Corporation involving hundreds of team members working over the course of three years while devoting thousands of hours to testing”.
“The development of this new system represents a fundamental shift in the way we design products,” said Daniel Hall, global chief UX designer. “With the adoption of over-the-air (OTA) updates we are able to develop software in smaller, more manageable pieces – with the ability to provide updates to customers even quicker.”
Enhanced Technology and User Experience (UX)
The new system features multiple touchscreen options from 8- to 14-inches which all feature the same newly enhanced design cues and functionality, while retaining a volume knob. The system also offers five times the processing power of the previous generation system which provides faster and more responsive touch functionality. All screens feature modern designs with optically bonded, glare reducing technology which mirrors smartphone-like capability.
A new native navigation system has 100% cloud capability for faster, more accurate directions and mapping. OTA updates will allow real-time updates for navigation mapping.
The new Human Machine Interface (HMI) provides an enhanced user interaction through sight, touch and voice thanks to improvements in the graphical user interface (GUI), voice interface and unique North American animation. It delivers a unified feeling and ease of use, while balancing accessibility needs. Additionally, the voice interface is designed to use advanced graphics to distinguish between listening and processing states, and the appearance matches the new and improved capability of cloud processing. Another significant advancement is the animation incorporated into this multimedia solution, which brings it to life. These unique, leading designs can be seen everywhere from interacting between functions, sliding menus and dropdown banners.
Music options include AM or FM, standard SiriusXM stations or connected streaming music sources, such as Apple Music and Amazon Music – the audio HMI is also significantly improved, Toyota claims. Occupants can now select from available music sources based on music genre or frequent preference. AM and FM station dial numbers are displayed along with logos when available. Sourcing information from the cloud, the native music system is always up to date and features enhanced programming details. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard.
The newly developed Virtual Assistant (VA) is intended to be the primary way occupants interact with the new multimedia system and is designed to enable a voice first application. Combining a hybrid developed structure of in-house engineered machine learning with a cloud-based platform featuring up to date content, VA aims to provide a natural and easy to use interaction for vehicle occupants. Designed with dual-microphones, enhanced noise-cancellation, speaker location and seat detection capabilities, the approach allows front seat occupants an expanded and interactive functionality to access navigation, media, phone and select vehicle settings.
Through the new system’s User Profile feature, the driver’s personalised settings and experience, from preferred media or radio station to climate settings in some models, will be retained and accessible when the driver next returns to the vehicle.
Navigation is also available to passengers with or without network connection, with offline mode designed to detect when the vehicle is near or entering an area with low connectivity and download applicable maps and services in advance.
A user will receive the same personalised settings in new vehicles making it portable from vehicle to vehicle. The new profile system is stored on the cloud, meaning users can access and take settings to other vehicles with the new multimedia system. Once created, users can use a Bluetooth handheld device such as a smartphone or tablet, smart key, or manual login to access profiles.
A digital key is an extension of the User Profile feature, through a smartphone when within Bluetooth proximity to the vehicle, owners can lock/unlock and start/stop their vehicle motor through the Toyota or Lexus app. The digital key can also be shared with up to seven different guest users at one time. No passwords or PINS are required.
When unexpected emergencies occur the system can connect drivers with a 24/7 emergency response agent who can quickly request dispatch of emergency services to a vehicle’s exact location or assist authorities in locating a stolen vehicle.
Drivers receive personalised maintenance updates, vehicle health reports and maintenance reminders through various subscriptions available on the smartphone app.
The new system will make its debut as the Lexus Interface multimedia system with the launch of the redesigned Lexus NX in the fourth quarter of 2021.