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Economy & Tech

Can the Arene OS Make Toyota the Apple of EVs?

Just as iOS revolutionized smartphones, Toyota aims to transform EVs with the Arene OS, streamlining software deployment for enhanced vehicle intelligence.

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President Koji Sato of Toyota Motor Corporation speaking at the Japan Mobility Show on October 25 at Tokyo Big Sight. (©Kyodo)

The 2023 Japan Mobility Show (formerly the Tokyo Motor Show) was held from October 26 to November 5. On October 27, Koji Sato, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, participated in a discussion on electric vehicles (EVs). 

Sato spoke about Toyota's software platform for its next-generation EVs during the talk. "It functions much like the iPhone's basic iOS operating system," he explained. "This system will integrate and operate the previously disparate functions of vehicles in future models." 

Similarities to American tech giant Apple's phones hint at Toyota's strategy to recover the EV market.

EVs Tailored to Preference

In the discussion, Sato was referring to Arene, Toyota's proprietary in-vehicle OS. Arene will serve as the development foundation for the next-generation EVs that Toyota will launch in 2026 and beyond.

So how will cars that adopt this software be different?

By interacting with the EV's artificial intelligence (AI), drivers can receive recommended locations and routes that match their preferences. As the driving terrain changes, the ride quality switches to the optimal driving mode. Whether driving on a sandy beach or a smooth tree-lined street in suburbia, Arene will adjust the car's performance accordingly. 

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Furthermore, AI will identify and provide information on stores and businesses that passengers point to during the drive. It will even allow them to view restaurant menus and make reservations while on the road. Upon returning home, drivers can supply the remaining battery electricity to stores, offices, and appliances through a phone application.

Toyota showcased Arene's latest features in a virtual reality (VR) demonstration at the Japan Mobility Show. Some of these technologies are currently being tested on public roads in the United States and test courses in Japan. 

President Koji Sato of Toyota Motor Corporation (right) and President Toshihiro Suzuki of Suzuki Motor Corporation at the Japan Mobility Show on October 27. (©Kyodo)

Great Connectivity

Discussing the innovations, Sato said, "Vehicles were once stand-alone units. Soon, however, we will be able to connect them to data and integrate them into an expansive social system." 

He added, "Just as the applications we use differ from person to person [even with the same phone model], Arene will diversify cars [to drivers' preferences]."

To create new value-added service applications for EVs, Toyota intends to disclose information on Arene to outside parties. In fact, the automaker has already begun collaborating with a select number of partner companies. 

Toyota's Vice President Hiroki Nakajima commented, "Naturally, we intend to make more information on our OS freely available" to facilitate the integration of social systems and EVs.

Catching Up to Tesla and BYD

Other companies also plan to disclose the development environment of their EV software. One such company is Sony Honda Mobility, a 50-50 joint venture between Sony Group Corporation and Honda Motor. Vehicle performance will not be the sole focus of future competition in the EV market. As with the development of phones and PCs, the high performance of operating systems capable of integrating and controlling hardware will be another core focus. Similarly, other significant areas of focus will be transparency surrounding application development and ease of use. 

EV market leaders Tesla and China's BYD are ahead regarding in-vehicle software. Both companies are already providing services that add functions to cars through software updates. Their vehicle systems allow passengers to enjoy videos and music through various applications.

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But fully extending software services from phones to direct vehicle control, such as controlling ride quality, will take time.

Toyota's booth at the Japan Mobility Show press preview on October 25. (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

Evolving Hardware and Software

Consumers accustomed to gasoline or hybrid vehicles (HVs) are unsatisfied with current EVs' cruising range and charging performance. EVs are still in the midst of technological development in terms of both hardware and software. This presents an opportunity to redefine the market power structure.

Toyota is steadily developing technologies to improve EV hardware, including all-solid-state batteries. These batteries can increase EV cruising range to over 1,000 km (621 mi), more than twice that of current EVs. Other new batteries currently under development can both reduce costs and improve range. The company's new three-piece modular body structure will also help boost production efficiency.

In September, Toyota decided to make Woven by Toyota (WbT), its subsidiary that is developing Arene, a wholly owned subsidiary. Toyota then established a new Software Development Center in October. WbT has now begun accelerating the practical implementation of Arene and its vehicle applications through a three-company tie-up. The third party in this collaboration is DENSO Corporation, a major auto parts supplier.

A demonstration of the different driving modes of Toyota's next-generation EV at the Japan Mobility Show.

Redefining EVs

When it launched in 2007, the iPhone redefined communication devices. It opened up a new market with its sleek design, intuitive touch panel operation, and ability to extend functions through application services.

With its line of EVs, Toyota is aiming for a similarly groundbreaking evolution in hardware and software. But can Toyota stay ahead of Tesla and BYD in software innovation and car-manufacturing expertise? That is the question.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Noboru Ikeda

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