Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company launched a new website that encouraged everyday folks to submit their ideas for improving Ford vehicles. In May, Volkswagen unveiled a simliar site, with the intention of gathering ideas for VW's new infotainment system. Now, Toyota has hopped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon, but it's not looking to improve its cars: Toyota wants to improve the whole planet.
Toyota's initiative is called "Ideas for Good", and the idea behind it is pretty straightforward. Toyota has identified five of its best technologies, and it wants you to suggest ways of using them to make the world a better place. The five technologies are:
• T.H.U.M.S., "an advanced injury-simulation software that measures more than the conventional crash test dummy can."
• Toyota's solar-powered ventilation system, a popular feature on the 2010 Toyota Prius.
• Hybrid Synergy Drive, the technology that put the Prius on the map.
• The Advanced Parking Guidance System, which, like most parking assist technologies, uses camaras and sensors to park vehicles with minimal input from drivers.
• Touch Tracer, "an advanced touch-activated display system that allows drivers to control music, temperature and other features from the steering wheel".
Toyota wants tinkerers like you to take one of those technologies and use it to make something useful. (Think of the inventor that rigged an inexpensive baby incubator from Toyota 4Runner parts, and you've got the basic idea.) Hop over to Toyota's "Ideas for Good" website, describe your invention, add a photo or video if you like, and you're off.
A panel of judges will evaluate the submissions and determine winners, each of whom will receive a Toyota vehicle and have the chance to work with the Toyota team to develop their project. Submissions are due by February 28, 2011, with winners to be announced on May 9. Here's a video that outlines the whole initiative:
Of course, we'd be a little remiss if we didn't wonder why Toyota has chosen to launch this initiative now, of all times. Cynics among us might think it has something to do with Toyota sales, which are up just .6% for the year, compared to Chrysler (37%), Ford (19.3%), Honda (15.6%), and even General Motors (6.6%)."Ideas for Good" could be a great way to refocus the public's opinion on all the great technology that Toyota has put out, instead of those high-profile recalls.
But whatever the reason, it sounds like a great contest, and it could generate some really nifty ideas -- ideas with wider-ranging implications than, say, just another app for your car stereo system. If you'd like to know more, visit the website or check the full press release below.
* * * * *
Auto Maker Focuses on Continuous Improvement with Innovative Technologies
TORRANCE, Calif., November 8, 2010 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc. today announced its new brand campaign, “Ideas for Good,” a unique initiative centered on what the company has been doing for many years—repurposing its innovative automotive technology to benefit society in the non-automotive space. The campaign builds upon Toyota’s DNA of quality, reliability and durability, as well as its commitment to innovation, by inviting consumers to share their own ideas to improve quality of life beyond the automotive world.
An extension of Toyota’s enduring commitment towards continuous improvement, the “Ideas for Good” initiative empowers people to imagine new possibilities for Toyota technologies. Beginning today, the public is invited to share ideas on how to repurpose Toyota technology through the “Ideas for Good” program sponsored by Toyota. Consumers are challenged to find new, non-automotive applications for five distinct Toyota technologies to ultimately benefit society. The public can learn about Toyota’s technologies and how to share their ideas at www.toyota.com/ideasforgood. Submissions--accepted November 8, 2010 through February 28, 2011--will be evaluated by independent judges, and the winners of the challenge have the opportunity to bring their ideas to life by participating in a design session. To inspire innovative new ideas, the initiative will be supported by an advertising campaign highlighting the unique ways Toyota technology has been repurposed, or could be repurposed, to improve other areas of life.
“We’re sharing a side of Toyota that many are not aware of and engaging the public in a way we’ve never done before,” said Bill Fay, group vice president of marketing for TMS. “We’re shining a light on some of our revolutionary technologies, which have been used to improve people’s quality of life, in order to encourage the public to help us identify the next big ‘idea for good.’”
While Toyota’s innovations inside the car are well known, the company has also developed technologies which transcend that boundary and benefit people in other ways. For example, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., is utilizing Toyota’s Total HUman Model for Safety (THUMS) software to study head injuries sustained by football players. THUMS, originally developed to simulate vehicle crash-related injuries, was shared with Wake Forest to allow researchers to model head injuries and study how hits on the football field can affect athletes. Wake Forest researchers hope the THUMS software will help find ways to prevent and treat head injuries, and create even safer football helmets. Recent concern with football-related head injuries has further emphasized the importance of their study.
Similarly, when Yellowstone National Park set out to build a new visitor education center, the vision of the design team was to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) environmentally responsible Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. Toyota encouraged the park to set its goal higher after hosting a tour of the Gold LEED campus headquarters in Torrance, Calif. Toyota shared its environmental-building insights and technology with the park’s architects. Toyota also donated $1 million to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, completing the $15 million of private funding needed to start the construction. In August, Yellowstone exceeded the Silver goal, achieving a Gold LEED certification by the USGBC.
To support the initiative, Toyota’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi LA has created a marketing campaign to further demonstrate Toyota’s commitment towards innovation and continuous improvement. The campaign utilizes broadcast, print and online mediums to showcase five Toyota technologies: Total HUman Model for Safety (THUMS), Hybrid Synergy Drive® (HSD), Solar Powered Ventilation System, Touch Tracer Display, and Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS). The campaign will direct people to an online hub atwww.toyota.com/ideasforgood.com, where they can learn more about the technologies listed above. Consumers can share their ideas on the “Ideas for Good” consumer-challenge site for a chance to make them a reality. Additionally, they can view background information on the panel of experts serving as consumer challenge judges: Joel Stitzel, Ph.D. of Wake Forest University; Keith Grossman of WIRED Magazine; Grace Hawthorne of Stanford University Design School; Jake Ward of Popular Science and Josh Morenstein of fuseproject.
The online hub will also host case studies and videos that highlight organizations leveraging Toyota technologies to improve consumer experience and well being. These organizations include NASCAR, Yellowstone National Park and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
“As a leader in quality, Toyota is focused on innovating better cars for a better quality of life,” said Fay. “The campaign inspires new thinking about what Toyota has already been doing for many years. Ultimately, with consumers’ help, we hope to inspire new ways that our innovation can benefit society.”
To help inspire viewers’ imaginations, the first of three TV commercials features a real world application of THUMS technology used by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The two future commercials will show how Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive and Solar Powered Ventilation System technologies could be repurposed to benefit the community and encourage participation in the “Ideas for Good” challenge. To view the TV commercials, visit the Toyota USA YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/toyota.
“Ideas for Good” Featured Technologies
Total HUman Model for Safety (THUMS)– An advanced injury-simulation software that measures more than the conventional crash test dummy can.
Hybrid Synergy Drive® (HSD) – HSD converts braking energy into electricity. The hybrid system helps lower emissions while raising mpg.
Solar Powered Ventilation System – The Toyota Prius offers this system that helps keep the interior air temperature near the outside ambient temperature, when the vehicle is parked in direct sun.
Touch Tracer Display – An advanced touch-activated display system that allows drivers to control music, temperature and other features from the steering wheel without taking their eyes off the road. Touch Tracer is the first display system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel.
Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS)– Available on the Toyota Prius, this system utilizes ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers to detect open parking spaces and helps guide the car into those spaces with only soft driver braking.
Learn more about these technologies at www.toyota.com/ideasforgood.