Toyota displays satellite technology on Mirai-based research vehicle at Detroit Auto Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 17, 2016

Toyota has been developing a vehicle based on the Mirai fuel cell vehicle. Featured on Toyota’s stand at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, this vehicle comes equipped with Kymeta’s satellite communications technology.

U.S. based Kymeta is known for its technology related to flat-panel antennas. Toyota however is not just including this satellite communications technology in its vehicle but will also work to improve connected technologies. It even has a plan to include a Data Communication Module to a wider range of its products.

In fact, Toyota plans to have satellite communication in future models. In particular, Toyota is working on high capacity satellites that provides better rate of transfer for data compared to the traditional satellite technologies. These types of satellites typically need to have a dish-type antenna installed on the ground.

However, the satellite antennas from Kymeta will have no more need for any of the mechanical components as it utilizes liquid crystal technologies and software to be able to steer and track satellites electronically. Since the antenna is flat and lightweight, it can be integrated to the vehicle easily either when it is being assembled or even after it is already sold.

Toyota Motor Corporation Senior Managing Officer Shigeki Tomoyama shared that over a number of years, the company has been meeting with new companies to study new technologies. Tomoyama added that the company was excited to know about Kymeta as its flat antennae technology can help sold a number of issues related to vehicle-based satellite communications.

There are three main advantages that satellite communications can offer to the automotive industry. The first is that it allows a large amount of data to be distributed to the vehicle. The second is that since it covers a wide range of areas, it helps in deploying connected vehicles that have common standards on a global scale. The third is that it offers both secure and stable communications especially in emergency situations like that of natural disasters.

Kymeta CEO Dr. Nathan Kundtz said that the company is more than excited to work with Toyota especially when it comes to next generation technology related to vehicle connectivity. Kymeta is the first to effectively provide this technology and it already has more than 8,000 miles of road testing through cars that are connected to a satellite.

Toyota and Kymeta have been researching together, since September 2013, a flat antenna that can be fixed to the car and that’s able to keep up with the large amount of data delivered by the satellite to the vehicle. Since Toyota had the exclusive right to develop and test this antenna, it offered Kymeta the use of its research vehicles for any test drive.

The current progress of this research will be at the Mirai that is displayed at the 2016 NAIAS. To expand research and development on this technology, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership invested the amount of $5 million in Kymeta.

Toyota is an investor at Mirai Creation Investment LP. As a result of this investment, Toyota anticipates that its joint research with technology company Kymeta will speed up. Toyota says it will continue to develop connected car technology and introduce satellite communications to provide improved car experience for its customers.

Press Release

Toyota Displays a Mirai-Based Research Vehicle with Satellite Communications Function

At the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Toyota is displaying a research vehicle based on the Mirai fuel cell vehicle which is equipped with satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a U.S.-based company that is the world's leader in flat-panel antenna technology.

Toyota is working to enhance its connected technologies, including a plan to install a Data Communication Module into a broader range of its vehicles. The company is also considering using satellite communications in the future, including high capacity satellites that offer much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies.

While these satellites have historically required the use of a "dish" antenna on the ground, Kymeta's satellite antennas remove the need for mechanical components by using software and liquid crystal technologies to electronically track and steer towards satellites. The lightweight, flat profile of the antenna also allows for seamless integration during vehicle assembly or easy aftermarket installation.

"For several years, Toyota met with emerging companies around the world to investigate new technologies," said Shigeki Tomoyama, Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. "We were very excited to learn about Kymeta, because their flat antennae technology could solve the challenge of vehicle-based satellite communications."

Satellite communications offer several key benefits to meet automotive needs, including

the distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle,
broad coverage areas and the global deployment of connected vehicles that share common standards across national borders, and
more stable and secure communications, particularly in emergencies such as natural disasters.

"We're excited to be working with Toyota on this next generation of vehicle connectivity," said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, CEO of Kymeta. "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."

Since September 2013, Toyota and Kymeta have been jointly researching flat antennae, embedded in the car, to support satellite distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle. With an exclusive right for development and testing of the on-car antenna, Toyota lent the company research vehicles for test driving. The Mirai displayed at NAIAS represents the progress of these efforts.

Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership, a fund where Toyota participates as an investor, provided an investment of $5 million (US) to Kymeta this month to enhance future technology research and development. Toyota expects acceleration of the joint research with Kymeta through the investment.

Toyota continues to work to accelerate connected car development and introduction including use of satellite communications, to offer customers ever-better car experience.

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