Parents can now monitor teen drivers remotely with a new Toyota smartphone app that keeps track of certain features in the car. Here’s what the technology can and can’t do.
Teen drivers whose parents have imposed time curfews, geographical limits, and speed restrictions when they borrow the family car can now be tracked in real time by mum and dad via a smartphone from the comfort of their work or home.
Although the smartphone app cannot limit the vehicle’s speed remotely, it dobs in “guest drivers” who are doing the wrong thing such as speeding, swerving, braking heavily or accelerating aggressively – by sending the vehicle owner an alert.
The new Toyota Corolla Cross SUV – which went on sale in Australia today – is the first model in the line-up with the latest generation of Toyota’s internet-connected technology.
The latest version of the MyToyota Connect has the following functions:
- Guest Driver sends a message to the owner of the car if the vehicle is driven outside a geofencing limit, exceeds a pre-determined speed, a time curfew, or a total driving time limit;
- Remote Connect starts and stops the engine via the phone (for up to 10 minutes), sets air-conditioning temperatures, and the front and rear window defrosters (though not heated side mirrors or seats);
- Status Connect monitors fast acceleration, harsh braking, or aggressive cornering – and shows the last 10 journeys of the vehicle after they have been completed;
- Vehicle Insights shows how much fuel is in the car, and how much driving range remains;
- Multimedia Connect uses ‘cloud navigation’ and embedded ‘Hey Toyota’ voice control to search local destinations (though Toyota has just signed a deal to use Google services in future);
- Safety SOS is a button on the rear-view mirror which the driver can press to contact a Toyota incident response centre if the driver needs help or is stranded;
- Automatic Collision Notification automatically alerts the same Toyota incident response centre in the event of a serious crash, and if the driver is unresponsive.
- Stolen Vehicle Tracking can trace the location of the vehicle in real time, enabling police to intercept the vehicle safely once alerted by Toyota’s incident response centre (which has located more than 35 stolen vehicles to date).
Toyota experts say while the monitoring technology may be welcome by parents, it is not a form of ‘Big Brother’ because only the owner of the vehicle has access to the information in real time.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘Big Brother’ because the customer is consciously setting it up on their phone,” a senior product manager for Toyota Australia told Drive.
“They are the primary driver and can make sure the car being is taken care of and driven safely by a loved one.”
In a win for parents and a possible frustration for teens, the technology cannot be disabled from the car by a rogue driver – and it monitors the vehicle’s location in real time.
“The owner of the vehicle receives an alert whenever one of the conditions or limits are exceeded,” said the Toyota technical expert.
“The notification comes up on the smartphone like a message, and then you can go into the app for more detail.”
The MyToyota Connect service – which uses an embedded Telstra SIM card to send and receive data from the car – is free for the first 12 months of ownership with every model grade in the new Toyota Corolla Cross SUV.
However, once the free subscription in the first year runs out, there will be an annual fee (the cost of which is due to be announced in the coming days).
There are some other tips on MyToyota Connect owners may like to know.
- The car must be locked before the engine start function can be activated by smartphone;
- Although the connected car can technically be started from the other side of the world – or from a home, office, beach or shopping centre – the car and the smartphone must be in an area where there is mobile phone signal;
- The car will only run for 10 minutes in this condition to minimise emissions in garages or car parks;
- After being started remotely, the car engine will switch off once the car door is open, and drivers will need to restart the car using the proximity key and push button start;
- The owner’s smartphone communicates via a cloud server (or internet portal), which then sends a message to the car (or vice versa). The smartphone does not yet talk directly to the car;
- Separately to MyToyota Connect, the Corolla Cross has wireless and wired Apple Car Play and wired Android Auto.
The latest version of the MyToyota Connect app is expected over time to replace the original MyToyota app, which had some but not all of the above features.
Although the Camry, HiLux, Yaris Cross, Hiace, Granvia, Fortuner and LandCruiser 300 Series have had a version of the MyToyota Connect app since 2020, they do not yet have all of the above capabilities.
The company is yet to disclose which models will get the upgraded MyToyota Connect app and in which order they will arrive.