Toyota partners with Japanese telecom giant NTT to harness connected car data

Toyota has announced a partnership with Japanese telecom giant NTT to collaborate on the development, verification, and standardization of technology across the connected car realm.

The deal represents one of many in recent months as Japanese companies forge ahead with initiatives to lead on the connected car and autonomous vehicle revolution.

Back in January, Toyota joined forces with Ford to accelerate open source software deployment in cars, while the same day Toyota debuted a new concept car that uses AI to understand your driving habits. And just last week Microsoft announced it was to license its patents for internet-connected cars to the Japanese automotive giant, its first such deal with a car maker.

As part of its new tie-up with NTT, one of the world’s top telecom firms by revenue, Toyota will share big data garnered from its connected cars, and the duo will conduct joint R&D “for solving various issues facing society,” according to a press release issued earlier today. This may include preventing road accidents and solving congestion, while it may also lead to “new mobility services,” according to the statement.

The advent of connected cars, be it through in-vehicle technology installments or smartphones carried by drivers, has created a wealth of useful data. Back in December, the Open Transport Partnership was announced, a new program that taps GPS data from e-taxi platforms to improve road conditions in developing countries. The program is being led by the World Bank, in conjunction with Uber competitors Easy Taxi, Grab, and Le Taxi, which collectively operate across dozens of countries.

Uber itself has also partnered with city authorities such as Boston, using trip-level data including date and time of trips, pickup/drop-off locations, distance traveled, and duration to analyze patterns and work out ways to improve roads and infrastructure.

Elsewhere, companies such as Parkopedia and Google are figuring out ways to use historical parking data to predict where and when on-street parking is likely to be available for drivers.

And it seems this is exactly what Toyota is looking to do — it’s about collecting, aggregating, and processing a ton of data from cars in real-time to create useful add-on services. And to do so, powerful networks are needed to accommodate this gargantuan amount of data, which is where NTT comes in to play.

Toyota says that it plans a field trial for 2018, which will “assess the feasibility and usability” of any services developed as part of its R&D work with NTT.

Today’s news comes just a few days after NTT rival SoftBank’s autonomous vehicle joint venture, SB Drive, nabbed Yahoo Japan as a new investor. Meanwhile, Nissan is expected to launch Japan’s first self-driving car later this year, as the country’s government commits to making self-driving taxis a prominent feature of Tokyo in time for the Olympics in 2020.

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