Trucks at Work
Escaping the tyranny of technology … with technology?

Escaping the tyranny of technology … with technology?

Here’s a strange concept: using technology to remove people’s addiction to technology, especially when they drive.

Huh?

If that sounds way more counter-intuitive than possible, you’re not alone. Yet in a recent interview, Zack Hicks – the CEO of Toyota Connected, a company the global automaker created back in April – explained that the key is pushing technology into background, so it automatically provides the answers we humans are searching for, especially when we operate vehicles.

“When you get in your car, you shouldn’t have to program in a destination. Based on your driving patterns and preferences, we probably know where you’re going, we should just guide you there and help you avoid traffic,” he said. “So that’s how we can use data to make a customer’s life better, and it’s not intrusive.”

And with Toyota aiming to add artificial intelligence to its vehicles within the next five years, more accurate analysis of driving patterns will be possible.

“We can tell when you’re driving outside your normal patterns. We can guess with 80% accuracy when you’re not going home,” Hicks noted.

“So how we can 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% accuracy that you’re going to the Cowboys game,” he said. “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?’”

Oh, and by the way, how would your car know you like the Cowboys?

“Well, if we have access to your public social media posts, we might know that,” Hicks noted.

Um … are you saying cars might be "reading our mail," so to speak, in the near future?

“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,” Hicks (seen at right) emphasized.

“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,” he explained. “Our cars will be able to tell us other things, like customers’ travel patterns. And we know whether they are happy or unhappy because of survey data.”

This “knowledge” will then be deployed by vehicles to help push technology more into the background, Hicks noted.

“Today, there are so many apps and devices, and it’s overwhelming. [But] our devices should be a means to an end versus being the destination,” he stressed. “In restaurants, you see families staring at their devices and not even talking to each other. That’s the ‘tyranny of technology’ everyone talks about.”

The mission of Toyota Connected, then, is to take available technology and put it in the background, making it more of a “digital concierge” rather than systems a human must directly manipulate.

“We’re taking the device away from the person and giving them the answers that they need and more time back in their day,” Hicks pointed out. “This is stuff we have the capability to do now. We’ve proven the capabilities internally, but now it’s time for us to do something with it. This is about taking that data and making it work for the customer in ways that the customer wants. And customers will have to, as they do today, explicitly opt in.”

And if that means my vehicles can one day serve up hot coffee as I need it, I’m all for it. Just don’t send this Redskins fan to any Cowboy games by mistake though.

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