TOYOTA NORTH AMERICA’S IMPRESSIVE NEW HEADQUARTERS IN PLANO, TEXAS, hosted journalists from Texas Automotive Writers Association (TAWA) today, to discuss the future. Looking ahead, Brian R. Lyons, from the Advanced Technology Communications division, chatted to us about “Future Mobility Considerations and Initiatives”.
Firstly, just a short note on their impressive facility….it took me about 15 minutes, to walk from one of the massive parking garages, to the main lobby, which then took us into one of the plenty, tastefully decorated conference rooms. We were in “Corolla”. Had a touch of nostalgia for me, as my first car was one of only 500, specially homologated Corolla TRD Liftbacks, which were specifically developed for the South African rally championships, back in 1984. What a special, rear wheel drive performer that was.
Nevertheless, back to the future!!
As Peter Drucker so perfectly put it, “trying to predict the future, is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window”. This was the starting statement, to make sure, we all understand, that no one has a crystal ball…..not even Toyota.
The main categories discussed and briefly touched on, included : Energy Systems, Artificial Intelligence, Ubiquitous Connectivity and Sharing,
None of the above mentioned topics are really new to all of us, as these are the go to terms of everyone remotely connected or involved in the auto industry at the moment.
What he elaborated on, was some interesting facts and plans, along with massive investments by various established and newly established divisions within Toyota globally.
Specifically, this refers to Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and TRI-Advanced (TRI-AD):
TRI is an R&D center focused on Artificial Intelligence, Automated Driving, User Experience (UX) and Robotics and Materials Science.
TRI-AD is an R&D center in Japan, focused on software for Autonomous Driving.
Like these centers, Toyota Connected (TC) is using data science to develop technology and services for : Ride Sharing, Car Sharing, Remote Delivery, Mobility Services Platform for businesses and finally, it is a Big Data Center.
It was refreshing to note that Toyota aim to eliminate almost all CO2 emissions from their vehicles in the near future. Certainly, their attempts to make sure that they are environmentally friendly, as a whole, was made abundantly clear. Admirable steps are being taken in this process.
Interestingly, a comment was made about the original launch of the Prius 20 odd years ago at the Detroit Motor show, where Bob Lutz apparently called the Prius a “science project”. At that show, the most popular vehicle was the Hummer H2! 20 years later, that science project has sold over 13 million units worldwide and I don’t think there is a manufacturer not producing a hybrid of sorts today, with the exception of the pure electric brands. And we all know what happened to the Hummer and the price of gas.
As a result, Toyota is to be granting, free of royalties, no less than 23 740 vehicle electrification patents to the industry.
Certainly, Toyota has the ability, resources and drive to make sure they stay ahead of the pack heading to 2050. Partnerships, investment and the ability to change fast and effectively, will be the key to getting there first.