Yesterday, we told you about Audi, BMW, and Daimler, who have banded together to keep Google from dominating the mapping industry and, thus, the autonomous car industry. Now, Toyota has done something similar, but in many ways, dumber.
The automaker has decided not to offer Apple's CarPlar or Google's Android Auto on its vehicles. Instead, Toyota will rely on a relatively tiny company called TeleNav to provide infotainment services for drivers and passengers.
What does that mean, exactly? We won't have all the details until we see an actual implementation of the technology, but basically, TeleNav will be tasked with integrating Toyota owners' smartphones into their dashboards. Working with Toyota engineers, TeleNav will create its own system of displaying apps on center screens, incorporating navigation tools, and so on.
While touting its own capabilities in the press, TeleNav has expressed concerns about the distractions posed by CarPlay and Android Auto. The company claims that it can offer the same features as those two systems without forcing drivers to take their attention off the road.
WHY THIS IS VERY, VERY DUMB
That's to be expected. Few of us spend more than an hour or two a day in our cars, but we're always within arm's reach of our phones. We turn to them for communication, for entertainment, for news, for killing time when we're in the doctor's office. We are completely addicted.
That's not going to change anytime soon. Have you seen a five-year-old lately? Has she been staring into the glow of an iPhone? Of course she has. You think she's not going to grow up with a profound loyalty to her favorite mobile operating system? Think again.
To make things even worse -- at least for Toyota -- this is all happening at a time when brand loyalty among car-shoppers is dying. The market is so competitive that offerings from Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan, and others are in many ways indistinguishable from one another.
Toyota believes that by working with TeleNav to create a proprietary smartphone interface, it'll be offering something unique -- and who knows? Maybe it will. Maybe it'll be stellar.
But our gut tells us that when it comes to something as beloved as our smartphone interfaces, we don't want unique. We want familiar. We want trusted.
So basically, at a time when Toyota should be offering the widest range of options to attract the widest range of shoppers, the company has cut itself off from two key brand alliances that could make a huge difference to its bottom line. This isn't going to do much to fix the company's ongoing sales slump.
Our hunch? Expect Toyota to make an about-face before long.
For another take on this, check our our colleagues at Motor Authority.