We’ve been covering different ways that Toyota is working to make autonomous driving a reality over the past few years. The automaker invested heavily into research on autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. The company is developing partnerships with electronics companies, and now its buying electronics companies up as well.
That’s right, Toyota just put together a deal where it will acquire about 86% of Fujitsu Ten, a major electronics company. That’s a big indicator that Toyota is betting big on autonomous technology because Fujitsu Ten is the creator of a powerful 3D millimeter radar unit. This radar is one of the most accurate available today, and it’s the type of technology that could make autonomous driving a reality by allowing cars to see the road really accurately.
Why the Tech is a Big Deal
The current radar being used in most test vehicles that drive themselves is really basic. It either has serious tunnel vision so the car only sees a small portion of the road, or it can’t see very far out in front of it, or it’s a big spinning mechanism that sits atop the vehicle and looks awful.
Either way, the current technology being used in testing isn’t good enough to do the job an autonomous vehicle needs it to. This new radar is. It’s small, and it allows the vehicle to see an accurate picture of the road far down. It’s affordable enough for several of the systems to be put onto a single vehicle as well.
So far the technology is still in the testing phase and hasn’t been rolled out for vehicle use yet. Toyota decided to snap up the tech before it makes it to vehicles that are out on the road, because the automaker knows the radar is going to be a big deal soon. It could be the technology that makes autonomous driving feasible for everyone.
Even though Toyota continues to claim that autonomous driving is a ways out, and that it might not be possible at all, it’s clear that the automaker is betting big on the tech and that it has plans to make it happen as soon as possible.
While there is no official statement out from Toyota just yet, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that an all-new Supra is being released by the automaker. Prototypes have been spied out testing on the roads around the world, and the models have also been caught track testing.
That’s really exciting news for Supra enthusiasts, or performance enthusiasts in general. The turboed up Supra’s of the 80’s were iconic and many car collectors still work hard to keep one of these vehicles in their collection.
If, like me, you’re also in love with the Toyota Supra of old, you’ll love the way that the new Supra is shaping out. Sure there aren’t any performance details about the car yet or even official photos, but the word is that the Supra is going to look much like the Toyota FT-1 concept pictured below.
If the Supra looks anything like the FT-1 concept we’re going to have a seriously beautiful car on our hands. It’s sure to be a two-door coupe, and could be the sports car that Toyota has been needing to release all along.
It’s Likely to be Powerful
There isn’t any official figures out, but the next Supra is expected to be fitted with a powerful turbo V6 that produces upwards of 400 HP. That’s a pretty stunning figure, and something that would get enthusiasts seriously excited. It’s likely the Supra will be offered in both automatic and manual flavors to appease enthusiasts.
Of course the Supra is going to be fitted with a top-end suspension and a bunch of tech goodies that Toyota is known for. Let’s just hope that the automaker knows enough to make it a performance-focused vehicle with top driving mechanics just like the Supra’s from the old days. If Toyota puts the car together properly, it could be a very big deal for the automaker.
Currently the Supra is expected to be released sometime in 2018, but Toyota hasn’t even officially announced that it’s releasing such a vehicle, so don’t get your hopes up too much, and don’t take my word as a guarantee. Anything could happen between now and then.
Well the Scion FR-S is no more. I know it’s a sad day for auto enthusiasts, but there’s no reason to cry. The model will live on under another badge, the Toyota 86! That’s right, Toyota is nearing the launch of a 2017 performance model under the badge of Toyota 86, and it looks to be an improved version of the FR-S that drivers are really going to enjoy. Sure it’ll set you back a bit more than the FR-S would have, but you’ll also get more for your money than Scion buyers did.
A Bump in Cost
While making the transformation from the Scion FR-S to the Toyota 86, the car became more expensive. The standard model will be about $950 more than it was as the Scion FRs and the Automatic model will cost around $570 more than the automatic FR-S did in 2016.
While making the transformation from the Scion FR-S to the Toyota 86, the car is receiving quite a few enhancements that are worth taking note of. It’s getting more aggressive styling, it will receive a few handling enhancements to make it more exciting to drive around and the car is even getting a bit more power during the transformation. Between all those changes the Toyota 86 should be worth taking a look at and really considering if you were a fan of the FR-S.
The vehicle comes with a new set of shocks and tune-adjusted springs that should perform better during aggressive driving. It comes standard with a Hill Start Assist Control mode, and will be offered in both manual and automatic variations, which is excellent for all you manual enthusiasts out there.
Overall the Toyota 86 is an exciting vehicle that offers many of the same benefits and features that the Scion FR-S had going for it. Sure it’s rebadged and it has a new name, but it’s the same reliable and high-performance vehicle. If you’re interested in a high-powered Toyota coupe, the 86 is probably the best that you are going to get, and it’s pretty darned good. It’s hard to say if the name change is good or bad for the sports car, but it will be pretty cool to own the first of a new line of cars, and that’s exactly what buyers of the 2017 Toyota 86 will be seen as.
The Toyota Corolla is one of the best-selling sedans in the Toyota lineup, and for good reason. It offers excellent performance, reliability and it fits right in that mid-size sedan spot that so many small families are interested in. Details for the 2017 model year Corolla have just been released and it appears that the price went up slightly, though some nice new features were added to the vehicle to make up for that cost.
The Increased Price
The 2017 Corolla is priced at $19365 including destination costs. That’s an increase of $600 over the 2016 Corolla, which isn’t too bad compared to increases by some other automakers.
What You Get
Even though the Corolla is slightly more expensive than it was in 2016 it also comes with a bunch of new features and enhancements that more than make up for the cost increase. The 2017 Corolla comes equipped with a standard backup camera that makes it easier pulling out of tight parking spots, parallel parking or just backing out of your driveway.
It comes with a set of redesigned and improved wheels as well and enhanced styling that makes it look more modern and edgy overall.
These enhancements make the Corolla more desirable, even though it is a bit more expensive than it was before. It’s up to you to decide whether or not the changes are enough for you to get the more expensive vehicle, or if you should stick with the 2016 model year Corolla.
The Same Engine and Tranny
When you pick up the base-version of the Corolla you’ll still get that standard 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 132 HP and 128 lb.-ft. of torque overall. It’s tied to a six-speed gearbox or a CVT depending on which you prefer and offers pretty respectable performance. If you upgrade to the Corolla LE Eco model you’ll get 140 HP instead, but still around the same amount of torque.
The latest Corolla is a minor improvement over the older models with a new look and some new features, but for the most part you are getting the same thing you did with the 2016 model. That’s why it’s up to you to take a look at the minor changes between the model years and to decide if the price increase is worth it for you or if you’d rather stick with the 2016 model.
Toyota Tundra fans know that the trucks are built to last. They are rugged vehicles that handle hauling and other hard tasks unlike many other vehicles on the road. That’s exactly why so many owners are happy to pay the high sticker prices for these powerful vehicles, but owners should be forewarned that that sticker price is climbing higher for the 2017 model year. The Tundra will start at $31,215 and climb up steeply depending on the version that you want.
Added Standard Features
You aren’t just paying more money to say that you have the latest Tundra, the automaker is including additional features as standard for the added money that you have to pay for it. When you buy the 2017 Tundra you’ll enjoy a tow hitch receiver as standard on every single model that’s available. That means that you don’t have to worry about having one of those installed later on and you can enjoy towing immediately. If you go for a limited model you’ll enjoy power front bucket seats without having to pay extra for that feature as well. There are some other added tech improvements and minor changes made to the vehicle, but for the most part those are the enhancements that you’ll enjoy when you pick up the 2017 Tundra models.
Enjoy Some New Colors
Not only are you going to get some new features added as standard to the 2017 Tundra, but you will also have some colors to pick from as well. When you get a 2017 Tundra you can have it made in Barcelona Red Metallic, Black and Super White when you get one of the SR models of the vehicle. The Inferno color has also been made available to SR5 and Limited models of the vehicle, though it’s now discontinued on the TRD Pro model. If you want to get a Tundra, you’ll now have a slightly more difficult time picking out the color that you’re going to go with.
That price figure around $31K is just for the base 2WD version of the Tundra, and when you opt for more advanced versions of the vehicle, such as the 1794 or Platinum models, you can expect to pay upwards of $50K for the vehicle. That’s why you need to take your time and decide which features mean most to you and which you can do without. That’s the only way to really spend the right amount of money on a Tundra without regrets.
It’s tempting to pick up a new vehicle because it has more exciting features like an advanced multimedia system or satellite radio. Those features are cool and exciting, but they aren’t actually what’s most important, safety is. That’s why Toyota is adding a whole host of safety features into both the Yaris and the Prius vehicles for the 2017 model year. Most of these features aren’t going to get you up out of your seat cheering, though adaptive cruise is very nice, but they will help you feel more secure in the vehicle as you motor around the road, no matter if you have a family to protect or not.
The 2017 Prius
Of the two vehicles, the Toyota Prius gets more safety features for customers to enjoy. When you pick up the 2017 Prius it’s going to come with the Toyota Safety Sense P package as standard. That set of features includes adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision warning, automatic high beams, a pedestrian detection system and lane departure alerts.
Adaptive cruise lets you leave the vehicle in cruise even when you come up on a motorist travelling slower than you, the vehicle picks up the vehicle’s presence and simply slows the car down to avoid a collision and speeds back up when the obstacle is out of the way.
The same system that governs adaptive cruise also powers the pre-collision system by putting out an alert of any object in front of the vehicle, including pedestrians. The automatic high beams flip on at night when no vehicles are out in front, and off when the vehicle detects oncoming traffic. Lane departure keeps an eye on lane markers and lets you know if you begin to drift out of your current lane.
All these features offer a lot of safety and reassurance for drivers that they’ll know before something bad happens. The total cost increase for all this tech is around $515 for the low-end models and as little as $45 for the high end Prius vehicles. That’s a whole lot of tech for little price if you ask us.
The 2017 Yaris
While the Yaris doesn’t get as many new safety technologies, it gets most of the important ones. The new vehicle comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense C. The system comes with pre-collision, auto high beams and lane departure. Sure it’s lacking the adaptive cruise control, which is so nice for long-distance trips, but drivers still enjoy all the actual safety perks that help keep collisions from occurring.
Whether you decide to pick up a Prius or a Yaris, there’s a whole lot of additional safety in either of the vehicles for you to enjoy.
Toyota is working hard to build self-driving vehicles, and the automaker is investing heavily in the technology. While other companies are very confident in their ability to get this technology out to the market, Toyota remains a bit more reserved about its changes. The automaker knows that it’s a massive effort and that huge amounts of data have to be collected and synthesized about driving in order for cars to start operating themselves. That’s something the automaker is working hard on, but it still remains reserved about its plans to get these features out to the public, which is a sign that the company will eventually be successful creating self-driving cars.
Gathering All the Data
In order to teach cars to drive themselves, you need a whole lot of data. Data about the roads, data about how vehicles interact with one another and data about roadway rules. This has to be collected on a massive scale to be useful, because there are variations from one driver to another and from one section of the country to another.
In order to assemble the massive amount of data needed for effective teaching and advancing Toyota is drawing from the pools of its own customers. Collecting essential driving data through its own apps and media systems to find out exactly how people drive their vehicles.
The automaker already has a massive data center going up in Plano Texas within the Toyota Connected facility. The Toyota Global Big Data Center as it’s to be known is a monstrous facility that’s going to hold the company’s major data from all around the world. It’s a hub where data can be assembled and then synthesized to be used for learning purposes.
How the Data is Gathered
Toyota is currently using a couple of different methods to gather up all the valuable data that it can. Each of the cars comes with sensors that give vehicle information such as speed and direction. There are also LIDAR, radar and camera systems on some of the newer vehicles. These systems are picking up information about vehicles and their surroundings as they travel around through the roads around the world. Toyota is watching how vehicles operate individually, but even more importantly how they operate when around one another. There is a social aspect to driving, and it’s different depending on where you live. The vehicles need to understand car and person interaction at each location to know how to drive and maneuver properly in general.
Synthesizing the Data
Toyota is working hard to release a slew of safety and autonomous features for its vehicles, and each one of these features depends heavily on all the research that the company is able to gather from the environment. High quality maps, decent traffic laws and reaction rules are all based on information taken from drivers currently out on the roads. If you get a car with adaptive cruise it relies on data to operate effectively and offer you the best blend of features.
More complex features that are released in the future will rely even more heavily on all these rules and the information gathered, which is why Toyota is putting such a strong emphasis on getting as much valuable data as it can today.
Machines learn through a series of examples, not by rules. That means to train a car to drive properly it needs to be shown millions of different driver scenario examples that it can learn from. That’s what Toyota is doing with information recordings from drivers all over the world. Putting together important examples that are all feeding the brain that will hopefully someday confidently travel around the road while keeping drivers even safer.
Releasing Improved Driver Assist Systems
Toyota plans on releasing increasingly advanced driver assist systems to drivers around the country. The systems will start out handling only a small number of driving scenarios such as long-distance highway driving where things are quite monotonous. Later on the systems become more advanced and will handle more varied driving conditions, until one day drivers don’t have to operate vehicles at all to reach their destinations.
That major data center held by Toyota is going to be an instrumental part of creating actual self-driving vehicles, and it’s something the automaker is working very hard on currently.
Toyota has been working for years to develop a dynamic platform that most of its vehicles can be built on top of. The result of all that hard labor is the Toyota New Global Architecture, also known as the TNGA platform. It’s what Toyota is trying to use for most of its vehicles, and the automaker hopes that the platform will help infuse a bit of sporty spunk into its vehicles.
Solving a Serious Problem
Toyota is a massive automaker today. It’s so massive in fact that it produces around 100 different variations of its platforms, and puts 800 different engine types into its vehicles. When you think about those sheer numbers it’s easy to see that the automaker can’t develop and improve on each one of those designs. The only real option that Toyota has to ensure that its vehicles continue to grow and develop in a positive way is to simplify things as much as possible. That’s why the automaker has been working on the TNGA for so long. Not only will it bring new enhancements to most of its lineup, but focusing on one major architecture will allow the automaker to make improvements without being overwhelmed. Toyota should save money while continuing to innovate in a major way.
What the Standardized Platform Really Means
The standardized platform means that you can climb into a variety of different Toyotas and have a similar experience. Sure there are differences in the height of the seats depending on which of the five different options Toyota decides to use for the vehicle, and there are different shifters, air bags and pedals used between the vehicles, but there is only a small selection of options that is a much smaller pool than what the automaker has been using. It means that you’ll start recognizing Toyota components between vehicles and even though they’ll all look unique, you’ll probably see similarities as well.
Along with simplifying its vehicles, Toyota hopes to use the platform to enhance the handling of them as well. The automaker is working hard to enhance the chassis stiffness, drop down the center of gravity and lower the cowls of the vehicles all to make them handle and respond better out on the road. These changes should have a major effect on the Toyota vehicles, and overall will result in a whole lineup of models that drive more effectively than before.
The Toyota Modular platform is an exciting enhancement that the automaker needed to put in place years ago. Now that it’s going in many of the automaker’s new vehicles, you’ll notice a greater number of improvements between model replacements, and every Toyota buyer should benefit.
The Toyota Prius is a highly popular vehicle and it’s known as one of the first cars to popularize hybrid technology. Sure the Honda Insight was offered before the Prius was, but let’s be honest, the Prius is the true hybrid innovator of the bunch that put hybrids on the map. The car was released back in 2001 in the United States, and when you compare the older version of the car to the latest it’s clear that Toyota has made some progress. Let’s take a minute to compare the oldest with the newest to see the changes that Toyota has made, for better or worse.
The Toyota Prius has always been an efficient vehicle, after all that’s what it was made for. It’s grown in efficiency over the years though. Back in 2001 when the vehicle was first released in the United States it has a fuel efficiency rating of 42 MPG city and 41 MPG highway. That figure has gone up to 58 MPG in the city and 53 MPG on the highway, or an increase of around 14 MPG overall. Toyota uses a host of special enhancements like more lightweight materials, infrared blocking windshield and other features to get the best efficiency that it can, and all these improvements will help you save money as you drive around.
A Sleeker More Attractive Look
The original Prius was viewed as a bit of an eyesore, which was sort of the point when Toyota put the car together. That’s because they wanted this very new type of vehicle to stand out away from the rest of the cars. Hybrids were not common at the time and Toyota wanted to make sure that people were asking questions about the Prius. Today the Prius still has a distinctive look, but it’s a sexier and sleeker affair. The car itself is lower to the ground with a sharper profile especially around the hood, that now sits much lower on the car thanks to the Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA.
The original Prius is practically bulletproof. Sure it uses quite a bit of plastic throughout, and it has some quirky issues like the fuel bladder that makes it difficult to put fuel in the car in sub-freezing temperatures, but it’s a rock solid vehicle that you can count on. The same is likely to be true for the 2016 iteration of the Prius. Since it’s built on the latest Toyota platform it’s likely to be even more durable and Toyota vehicles are known for reliability in general, so you can count on the Prius holding up over the years.
While the original Prius was seen as a novelty when it was first released, it was clear just a few years later that the car would be around for a while. It’s still the best-selling hybrid car to this day, and the Toyota Prius is a major part of pop culture and known by almost everyone today. If you haven’t had a chance to test out a Prius yet, or you’re looking for an upgraded version over one of the older models, the 2016 Prius is one of the best versions of the car to date.
Every year J.D. Powers comes out with its APEAL study, letting auto buyers know which vehicles buyers are most satisfied with, and which they are least satisfied with. This study is an important one because it can let you know which vehicles you are going to enjoy and which ones you should be skipping over. It’s nice to have a quick snapshot of the best and worst options. According to the 2016 study both Lexus and Toyota vehicles are worth considering if you want to be happy with your purchase, specifically the RAV 4 and RC vehicles.
What the Study Means
The appeal study is now considered in industry benchmark when it comes to figuring out which vehicles and automakers are producing the most desirable vehicles of the bunch. It gets in contact with new car owners that have had their vehicles for approximately 90 days. This study asks the buyers about their experience with the vehicle to try and find out whether or not they are enjoying vehicle ownership or not. Each of the buyers are asked to rate their vehicles on a scale from 1 to 1,000 and they will rate the vehicle in a bunch of different categories. The final numbers that they come up with from all these questions will help determine which automakers are considered the most desirable and which are considered the least desirable.
Toyota Comes Out Ahead
In the study both Toyota and Lexus vehicles came out ahead of many of the other vehicles on the list. Particular the 2016 Lexus RC and the 2016 Toyota RAV4 did well on the study. Owners of both of these vehicles were very pleased with their purchases, and enjoyed the cars much more than most other auto buyers today. Both the RAV4 and the Lexus RC received segment awards, which means that the RAV4 was the favorite compact SUV of the bunch, and the Lexus RC was the favorite luxury sport sedan of the bunch. That’s a pretty big accomplishment that should be celebrated.
That doesn’t mean that you should run out and purchase a RAV4 or a Lexus RC, but it does mean that Toyota really cares about the quality of its vehicles and pleasing customers. That means any of the Toyota vehicles that you pick up should be of higher quality and designed to satisfy customers.
If you are trying to figure out which vehicles are going to satisfy you the most, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to APEAL scores from J.D. Powers, to figure out which ones are making the most customers happy currently. After all, if a vehicle is making a bunch of others happy, it’s likely to make you happy as well.
Before you pick up your next vehicle take a long look at the 2016 APEAL study results. You’ll quickly see which vehicles stood out compared to the others, and that’s what you should be considering for your next purchase.