Case Study

Toyota Connected’s Drivelink: The Inner Workings of a Telematics Platform

The automotive industry thrives on certainty as much as possible – often moving in five- to seven-year planning cycles and is characterized by efficiency, historical trends, and knowledge, given monumental operating costs and tight margins.

Sometimes, though, it’s important to try something different, such as the case when Toyota Connected developed its own telematics platform, Drivelink.

In the summer of 2019, Toyota Connected launched Drivelink to maintain the customer-to-automaker services such as Automatic Collision Notification, Emergency Assistance (via a vehicle’s “SOS” button), Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance, and Hands-Free Destination Assist, among other features. The telematics service platform replaced a third-party provider to bring operations into Toyota Connected and, ultimately, closer to where that information could more quickly make a positive impact.

The 2019 Toyota Camry became the first vehicle to feature Toyota Connected’s Drivelink as part of the Safety Connect suite. Now, Drivelink can be found across more than 40 Toyota and Lexus models in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, as well as models in other parts of the world. Currently, there are more than 5.5 million vehicles on North American roads equipped with the Drivelink platform, with this number increasing daily.

Drivelink-equipped vehicle drivers and passengers have made more than 3 million calls via the platform, and it has grown into a robust, reliable way to help customers, especially when they need it most, with either the press of a button or an automatic connection when the vehicle senses a collision.

Services such as these in the automotive industry are customarily handled by third parties. With Toyota Connected’s close relationship with Toyota Motor North America, the two organizations are able to work together to explore ways to optimize data to better serve their customers.

Knowing Your Audience

The reliability and quality of Toyota and Lexus vehicles have been a customer expectation for decades.

That now also applies to their telematics and, with the introduction of the Drivelink platform in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, downtime has decreased significantly, from 7% using the previous third party to one hundredth of a percent.

Need to find a nearby coffee shop and don’t have the ability to search through the navigation? Drivelink can help.

Destination routing is just one of many features that focus more on general uses than vehicle-related emergencies such as Automatic Collision Notification, Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, and Roadside Assistance. Others can include a medical issue affecting someone in the vehicle or contacting first responders for incidents outside the car – all with a press of the “SOS” button.

Even things customers do not see benefit them, such as when a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system senses something amiss. As part of the Toyota family, Toyota Connected is able to closely coordinate with Toyota, resulting in improved speed in getting necessary information to engineers and better customer experiences. An example of this is the improved ability for data scientists to discover trends when a number of vehicles experience similar issues, which enables them to promptly notify responsible teams to stock up on certain parts and get quickly get customers back on the road.

This is in contrast to the previous practice of Toyota making requests to non-Toyota parties for call reports and a description of how issues were being addressed – a process that could take weeks and impact training and customer service.

“We can very quickly respond to issues when they arise,” said Dan Fisher, director, Toyota Connected’s Drivelink call centers. “We have that complete ability because it’s our own platform.”

So how does it all work?

The Drivelink Telematics Services Platform is capable of ingesting and processing the vehicle information it receives with great precision via cloud computing – taking data from the vehicle and employing a remote server to process the data. Information is received from the vehicle (e.g., an airbag deployment) via voice calls between the vehicle and call center as well as via CAN bus data transmitted via cellular network.

Using call-routing automation, call center representatives are able to handle cases efficiently 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, whether it is from a customer is calling for directions being routed to a customer representative to contacting emergency services if a possible accident is detected.

Emergency response calls are automatically classified and routed with both a cellular signal from the vehicle and relevant data, such as make and model of the vehicle, its location and condition, registered customer information (to identify who might be driving), and regional routing to the nearest emergency responders. These calls can be with the call agent and the driver/passenger, as well as a local first responder to ensure the occupants’ needs are communicated to authorities.

“Sometimes there’s a need for a three-way call due to the chaos and commotion on the vehicle side of things,” said Fisher. “The agent has to be able to manage that based on the circumstances.”

He continued, “In most cases, we’ll stay on the line until emergency services have arrived on the scene and confirm if there’s anything else we need to do.”

Toyota Connected is working towards enabling the service’s capabilities to provide enhanced telemetry data, particularly pertaining to vehicle accidents to better assist first responders and enhance customer peace of mind.

We’ve got you covered

Toyota Connected operates two primary call centers in North America staffed with trained professionals who can assist customers by providing information on in-vehicle functions, calling for roadside assistance and helping with many other non-emergency issues. Every member of the call-center staff undergoes a rigorous five-week training program to learn all about the vehicles they service.

Calls are automatically routed based on anticipated need or can be activated via “SOS” calling, with staff trained in any number of scenarios.

Beyond today

The Drivelink team is working closely with other Toyota Connected teams to develop new and innovative services, such as the Cabin Awareness concept that could one day see Drivelink operators communicating with those who may be left behind in vehicles.

In three years since introduction, Toyota Connected’s Drivelink telematics platform is making its way to Mexico, Australia, and India. As Toyota Connected North America is just one part of a larger global organization of Toyota Connected companies, it is able to share resources with other regions to develop a robust, reliable platform to help customers wherever Drivelink is offered.

With such speed, and with new services coming online regularly, it seems as though the sky is the limit as to how Drivelink will be able to evolve. Or, more accurately, the cloud’s the limit.

*Drivelink functionality depends on certain factors outside of Toyota’s and Lexus’ control in order to operate, including 4G network availability, an operative telematics device, a cellular connection, and GPS signal. Without any one or more of these things, the services may be limited or precluded, including access to the response center and emergency support. Services vary by vehicle and are subject to change at any time without notice.

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