While attending this year's North American International Auto Show, Toyota thought to wow their tech-savvy fans with a Mirai-based fuel cell vehicle, equipped with sat-com tech from Kymeta.
Kymeta happens to be a US-based company that also calls itself a world leader in flat-panel antenna technology, which is something that Toyota is looking to build on by enhancing its own connected tech. This includes a plan to install a Data Communication Module into a broader range of vehicles.
The Japanese manufacturer is also considering using sat-com (satellite communications) in the future, and that includes high capacity satellites that can offer much higher data transfer rates than what conventional satellite tech currently brings to the table.
While those types of satellites have required the use of an on-the-ground 'dish' antenna, Kymeta's satellite antennas don't have a need for mechanical components. They operate by using software and liquid crystal technologies to electronically track and steer towards satellites. On top of that, the antenna's lightweight flat profile allows for seamless integration during both the vehicle assembly stage as well as during aftermarket installation.
"For several years, Toyota met with emerging companies around the world to investigate new technologies," explained Shigeki Tomoyama, Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corp. "We were very excited to learn about Kymeta, because their flat antennae technology could solve the challenge of vehicle-based satellite communications."
Some of the key benefits of satellite communications include the distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle, broad coverage areas and global deployment of connected vehicles and of course more stable and secure communications.
Dr Nathan Kundtz, Kymeta CEO stated that his company is the first to "successfully demonstrate this type of technology, and we have over 8,000 miles of road testing with cars connected to satellites."
Toyota and Kymeta have been researching flat antennae together since 2013, with the goal of creating an embedded design that supports satellite distribution of huge amounts of data to a vehicle - this Mirai displayed at NAIAS represents just how far they've come in their efforts.