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2022 in Review: Celebrating Together

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Whatever the “new normal” is, we’re likely in it. The year 2022 set us on a path toward stability gently returning after two years of uncertainty, and it also set Toyota Connected (“TC”) up for our next adventures as the company continues to evolve.

You could say our start to 2022 really began at the end of 2021 with the introduction of the new Toyota Tundra pickup truck and Lexus NX luxury utility vehicle. After more than three years of hard work, collaborating with Toyota Motor North America’s Connected Technologies (“TMNA CT”) division, we celebrated the introduction of our new infotainment system designed with the North American market in mind. As TC grew, so did the perks that came with it; TC employees could now opt into a lease program for Toyota and Lexus vehicles – an especially nice perk compared with most tech companies. Some engineers were even able to take home cars with the very systems they helped develop!

In February 2022 with our virtual townhall meeting and again in May, when we were finally able to safely support an in-person event, we recognized our new infotainment system’s launch teams. Known as Toyota Audio Multimedia and Lexus Interface, the system is now rolling out to more and more vehicles with cloud computing and the ability to constantly improve with over-the-air updates.

In June, our Toyota Connected HQ officially reopened with its new collaborative annex for TC and TMNA CT engineers to co-develop our next-generation infotainment platform. It also marked the third time our office had expanded its space in the Legacy West district in Plano, Texas. While we now offer a remote working option in 13 states in the U.S., we’re seeing more and more TC and TMNA CT associates come into the office to share their visions of the future.

In June, we previewed our Cabin Awareness concept at a media event hosted in Plano. At the same event, we provided a glimpse into our ever-evolving Virtual Agent “Hey Toyota/Hey Lexus” voice command functionality, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to perform in-vehicle functions in vehicles equipped with Toyota Audio Multimedia or Lexus Interface and a Drive Connect data subscription.

The 2022 SWARM Global Hackathon would follow in July, with more than 400 engineers from dozens of Toyota organizations around the world descending upon Plano to solve for technology and social good initiatives. Toyota Connected associates represented many of the top finishers in various categories, including a group comprised of our 11 summer interns.

Toward the close of summer, they’d end their tenure with Toyota Connected, as would Zack Hicks, our founding president and CEO. Hicks would retire from Toyota companies after helping found Toyota Connected in 2016 and serving in various roles with TMNA for 26 years. Our meeting rooms are named for visionaries in their respective fields, and Hicks is no different. So, naturally, we renamed a meeting room in his honor.

His successor as TC CEO was named at the same time as his retirement – Steve Basra. Basra has positioned TC fearlessly forward, stating he wants the brilliant engineers at TC to continue charting our software services for all Toyota organizations. Chief Operating Officer Chris Yang and Chief Administrative Officer Ken Tsuruta would join TC at the same time.

In August, our Drivelink telematics services platform that powers our SOS, automatic crash notification, and Destination Assist, among other customer services surpassed its 3 millionth call. It is a vital part of our company, and its importance will only continue to grow. It was launched for customers in 2019 and currently supports more than 6 million drivers in North America.

In September, TMNA announced that a trial of the Drivelink-powered Safety Connect services in Toyota and Lexus vehicles would be included for up to 10 years in vehicles equipped with our latest generation multimedia system. That will enable Toyota customers to travel with the assurance of having connected services to those who may be able to help them for a long time to come.

Speaking of services TC helped offer, while one might think of an NFT (non-fungible token) as a piece of six-figure internet art, as had been popular trading hands in early 2022, we put the medium to good use for Lexus guests at the Lexus Performance Driving School. NFTs are minted on what’s called a blockchain – a line of code that cannot be altered. If someone sells an NFT to someone else, the code showing the transfer of ownership is linked to the original code. This adds a sense of permanence.

The Lexus Performance Driving School merged the physical and digital world to provide guests with NFTs so that they could keep their track day performance data on a 45-second video with “hero” footage and have a permanent digital souvenir of their accomplishments.

Giving back resonates with TC, as we continued participating in After-School All-Stars of North Texas and volunteered at the Plano Community Garden, which provides thousands of pounds of produce to those in need where we live and work. TC4Good continues to be driving force for rallying our associates in Plano and beyond.

Finally, we gathered in October to review our business strategy headed into 2023 and beyond, with it being our first in-person Business Update since 2019. Executive leadership members laid out their vision for our evolution, with approximately 150 people attending in person and even more joining online. Teams were able to showcase projects bound for production in the near future with live demonstrations for their peers.

If this is, indeed, our new normal, it’s a strong position for us, with TC CEO and President Steve Basra refocusing our efforts on adding value to customers’ lives and driving experiences. Our leadership team is aligned with goals driving Mobility – moving regardless of medium, preparing for electrification, and meeting customers where they’re at while exceeding their expectations along the way.

The future is bright. With the ability to create and the growing talent to drive it, Toyota Connected is poised for powering mobility for all with boundless optimism and the tools and leadership to make it happen.

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