Toyota Creates Department to Unify ‘Connected Car’ Technologies
Toyota Creates Department to Unify ‘Connected Car’ Technologies

Toyota Motor Co.'s 15-page news release about its annual management change is a treasure trove for Toyota watchers, offering hints on where the taciturn giant is headed.

But comprehending the document can take some deciphering, as it’s packed with lengthy executive titles and cryptic terms.

Among them: “BR Connected Strategy and Planning Department.” Translation: Toyota’s response to the convergence of cars and electronics in the automotive industry.

Toyota says this new department will craft the company’s strategy on “connected cars,” which broadly refers to cars linked with devices, or even other cars, through devices.

The BR Connected Strategy and Planning Department—BR stands for business reform—consists of some 10 people, each of whom brings a wealth of knowledge on technologies related to connected cars. They will be tasked with compiling a timeline for Toyota to make competitive connected cars, said spokesman Ryo Sakai.

They will also study how to promote collaboration among multiple teams that work on such fields as autonomous driving systems, advanced driving assistance technologies and vehicle control.

“A car is a culmination of various technologies. Even if each team perfects the technology that it’s working on, that won’t make the car perfect,” said Mr. Sakai. “We need to coordinate and decide how to develop these areas and how to bring them together.”

Vehicles, traditionally mechanical, are increasingly laden with electronics and software that run them. An ordinary vehicle on the street built in recent years carries around 30 microcomputers controlling various functions including cruise control and power windows. That figure jumps to around 80 in a luxury car, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association in Japan.

Toyota, like many of its rival auto makers and even some new players like Google, is studying autonomous driving technologies. The new department is likely to be at the strategic center of this area, along with other key technologies involving safety and vehicle control. (Separate divisions will continue to develop the technologies, while the BR Connected Strategy and Planning Department plans out how to coordinate their products.)

Toyota is playing catch-up in commercializing advanced safety systems for the mass market. The auto maker plans to introduce less costly crash-prevention systems to most of the vehicles it sells in its biggest markets by the end of 2017, but Ford Motor Co. of the U.S. and Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea already offer automatic braking systems in mass-market models for the U.S.

Toyota assigned one of its top managers to lead the BR Connected Strategy and Planning Department: one of its new executive vice presidents, Shigeki Terashi. Mr. Terashi is experienced in both engineering and corporate planning. He has served as president and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

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