All U.S.-market Toyota models will be enabled with cellular/internet connectivity by 2020, Zach Hicks, CEO and president of Toyota Connected and senior VP and CIO of Toyota Motor North America, reaffirmed during a media briefing at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.
All of Toyota’s Lexus premium-brand models already featured connectivity functionality (via a data communications module, or DCM), Hicks said, adding that it “may take until 2020” for all Toyota-brand models to have connectivity hardware, but the company is “committed to having all Toyota’s connected.
Toyota is being more cautious about introducing over-the-air (OTA) updating capability for onboard-system software, however. Both Hicks and Gil Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, said that concerns about cybersecurity mean the company will be moving carefully on OTA, which introduces a new threat channel into the vehicle. They did say, however, that OTA does offer obvious advantages in terms of delivering quick and efficient software updates and upgrades to a large number of vehicles already in customers’ hands.
Toyota also announced at CES that it will this year begin introduction of Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based voice service, within select Toyota and Lexus vehicles fitted with the Toyota Entune 3.0 App Suite and Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0—with additional models to feature Alexa connectivity in 2019. The company said in a release that Alexa integration “will allow Toyota and Lexus customers in the United States to interact with Alexa in the car.”
“Voice services are rapidly becoming more popular and through our integration with Amazon Alexa, Toyota and Lexus customers will soon be able to easily speak to Alexa in their cars while on-the-go,” said Hicks. Toyota envisions the Alexa capability to allow customers to engage tasks such as interacting with smart-home features while traveling or use the voice control to obtain directions to a destination.