Toyota shows Mirai-based research vehicle in Detroit

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will showcase at the Detroit auto show a research vehicle based on its Mirai fuel cell vehicle that could aid in the automaker’s consideration of using satellite communications in vehicles.

Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota senior managing officer, speaks to the media about a vehicle that features satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a U.S. flat-panel antenna company.

The vehicle, to be shown at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, features satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a U.S. flat-panel antenna company.

“For several years, Toyota met with emerging companies around the world to investigate new technologies,” Shigeki Tomoyama, senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp., said in a statement. “We were very excited to learn about Kymeta, because their flat antennae technology could solve the challenge of vehicle-based satellite communications.”

Traditionally, satellites have required using a “dish” antenna on the ground, but Kymeta’s antennas don’t require mechanical components. Instead, the company uses software and liquid crystal technologies to “electronically track and steer towards satellites.” Toyota says the antennas are lightweight and flat and could easily be added to the vehicle during assembly or afterward.

Members of the media get a closer look at Kymeta flat-panel antenna technology in the roof of a Toyota vehicle.

Toyota said satellite communications benefit the auto industry in helping to distribute data in a vehicle, can assist with deploying connected vehicles globally and providing stable and secure communications in emergencies.

This month, as part of the Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership fund, Toyota invested $5 million into Kymeta to help further its technology research and development. The automaker hopes to accelerate its research with Kymeta.

“We’re excited to be working with Toyota on this next generation of vehicle connectivity,” Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz said in a statement. “Kymeta is the first company to successfully demonstrate this type of technology, and we have over 8,000 miles of road testing with cars connected to satellites.”

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