Both brands will use Google for speech-to-text on future models.
Toyota and Google Cloud have announced a new partnership surrounding Toyota's recently-updated infotainment systems.
After years of waiting for a refresh, new infotainment is finally available for Toyota and Lexus models. Models equipped with the new system will have AI-based speech services thanks to Google.
Some 2023 models will already come with the new tech, including the Toyota Tundra, Corolla, and Sequoia. Lexus models include the NX, RX, and the new RZ. This is excellent news, as Toyota's previous native voice control software certainly left much to be desired. Like the infotainment systems, it was slow, clunky, and frustrating to use.
Cars equipped with the latest infotainment systems already use Google-based speech-to-text services. Others use Google's processing power for more than that. We recently saw BMW bundle features like Google Assistant with data from the vehicle, like its battery range.
Frankly, with access to Google at this level, Toyota can and should be doing more to differentiate this system from others. Just about every device on the market has some sort of speech-to-text recognition, and Toyota's in-house voice assistant- co-developed by Toyota Motor North America Connected Technologies and Toyota Connected has been around since 2018.
Others, like BMW, have found far more interesting things to do with Google. Here's a freebie: why can't Toyota use Google Maps to download and keep maps of off-road trails, providing turn-by-turn directions for routes you normally wouldn't have access to? Apps like AllTrails offer this, but only as a subscription and certainly not with any level of integration into a vehicle. The market is wide open there.
Toyota has even proven that the Google software will do speech-to-text accurately offline, so why can't it extend those offline capabilities?
However, the new stuff means that the software no longer requires an internet connection for speech functions. That means, for example, you'll now be able to use it in your Tundra off-road with no cell service. Toyota calls it Speech On-Device. Moreover, Google and Toyota say that the quality will be comparable to when you do have a robust connection to the cloud.
"By working closely with Toyota to understand its in-vehicle device requirements and capabilities, we were able to provide server-like quality while using only a small fraction of the processing power to ensure the best possible experience for drivers," said Umesh Vemuri VP, Global Strategic Customers & Industries, Google Cloud.
To take advantage, all consumers need to do is wait. Toyota will slowly trickle the feature into its lineup, and eventually, the new technology will be standard across Toyota's lineup.