At the 2016 North American International Auto Show, Toyota is showcasing a research vehicle based on the Mirai fuel cell. It’s equipped with satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a recognized leader in flat-panel antennas.
Toyota, like other automakers, is working to bring more connected car technologies to the market. Toyota is considering satellite communications capability and working to install a Data Communication Module into their line. This includes high capacity satellites offering much higher data transfer rates than conventional ones.
While these satellites have historically required the use of a dish antenna, Kymeta’s satellite antennas remove the need for mechanical components by using software and liquid crystal technologies to electronically track and steer towards satellites. The lightweight, flat profile of the antenna also allows for seamless integration during vehicle assembly or easy aftermarket installation.
“For several years, Toyota met with emerging companies around the world to investigate new technologies,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. “We were very excited to learn about Kymeta, because their flat antennae technology could solve the challenge of vehicle-based satellite communications.”
In the age of ever increasing connectivity, satellite communication offers an advantage in the distribution of data – huge amounts of it, in fact – to a vehicle. Coverage areas can be broader with more secure communications in emergencies and natural disasters.
“We’re excited to be working with Toyota on this next generation of vehicle connectivity,” said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, CEO of Kymeta.
Since September 2013, Toyota and Kymeta have been jointly researching how an embedded flat antennae can feed satellite data to a vehicle.
With an exclusive right for development and testing of the on-car antenna, Toyota lent the research vehicles for testing. Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, a fund where Toyota participates as an investor, provided $5 million USD to Kymeta to promote research and development.
The Toyota display at NAIAS shows the progress of these efforts, which Kymeta has been carefully studying.
“Kymeta is the first company to successfully demonstrate this type of technology, and we have over 8,000 miles of road testing with cars connected to satellites,” Dr. Kundtz said.
One of the biggest themes this year at NAIAS is connectivity; how to incorporate it and how to make it easy and efficient. While we don’t know the extent of where Toyota will go with this technology, it would appear anything is possible. The flat panel antennas may well serve Toyota’s customers with more advanced versions of what we are seeing here at NAIAS: the rise of the “connected car.”
*Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog.net and resides in Detroit, Michigan.