As the ever-expanding iPhone has shown, we love big screens. The bigger the better. I remember when I was a kid and a 27-inch tube TV seemed enormous. Then a friend’s family got a 50-inch projection TV and my mind was blown. Now, I have a 55-inch OLED monster from LG hanging in my bedroom. It’s glorious.
But we also spend a ton of time in our cars, and that’s why it’s such a big deal that Toyota is putting massive screens in all its cars over the next few years. It’s taking the beautiful 14-inch touchscreen from the new 2022 Tundra pickup and taking over the entire Toyota (and Lexus) lineup within three or four years. And none too soon.
The announcement came from an interview with a Toyota Connected North America executive. As with many new car infotainment systems, the Toyota and Lexus cars will have over-the-air updates and cloud connectivity.
Toyota is also looking at offering add-on services like remote refueling (where a truck comes to fill your gas tank while you’re parked at work, instead of you needing to drive to a gas station).
New features for the system are in the works, too, including a possible sensor that would recognize whether a person or animal is in the car. It could even open the windows if the in-vehicle temperature rose too much.
A few years ago, Toyota didn’t want to give over its in-car screens to Apple and Google, but the smartphone was too much for the world’s largest carmaker to resist.
Or, more accurately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were too much for Toyota’s customers to resist, and the company eventually rolled out smartphone integration across its entire lineup.
But it came surprisingly late for many of Toyota’s most popular cars. According to Apple’s list of CarPlay-supporting vehicles, the Corolla, Highlander, and Tacoma didn’t get CarPlay until the 2020 model year, while the Avalon (the first Toyota to see CarPlay support announced), Camry, and RAV4 added CarPlay in 2019. Most of the Lexus lineup added gained CarPlay in 2019 as well.
This is in stark contrast to some other brands that added CarPlay as far back as the 2015 model year, including Kia and Hyundai. Mercedes, Volkswagen, and General Motors added extensive support for CarPlay starting in 2016.
In 2015, a Toyota exec told The New York Times that Toyota preferred “to use our in-house proprietary platforms.” The exec added that “we may all eventually wind up there,” which proved prescient as only a handful of obscure vehicles don’t offer CarPlay support these days.
Lexus was slow to add touchscreens to its cars, choosing instead to use a genuinely terrible touchpad on the center console for infotainment control. But that’s changing with the 2022 Lexus NX. It uses the same system as the Tundra, along with a touchscreen as large as 14-inches.
These screen changes should help Toyota and Lexus compete in the new screen-happy marketplace. Economies of scale should help keep them more affordable as Toyota outfits its entire lineup with the latest tech by the middle of the decade.
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