There is a good chance you’re one of the 100-plus million Amazon Prime customers who enjoys free shipping on products you order online. Likely you get your purchases delivered to your home or office. But what if you could get packages sent directly to the trunk of your car while at the beach or on vacation?
That’s now a reality here in the U.S. Just as we went to press with our July issue, General Motors and Volvo announced a program with Amazon called Amazon Key In-Car Delivery. Owners of certain Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, and Volvo vehicles who download the Amazon Key app and connect it to their car (via Volvo On Call or OnStar for GM cars) will be able to grant Amazon delivery drivers access for package drop-off. In-Car Delivery will be available in 37 cities in the U.S. at launch and costs nothing for Prime subscribers, though certain restrictions do apply. If you’re curious, check out amazon.com/keyincar.
Not surprisingly other companies are linking up with Amazon. At CES this year, Zack Hicks, president of Toyota Connected, announced a partnership that brings Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into select Toyota and Lexus vehicles, including the new fifth-generation RAV4 via Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0 system.
But Hicks and his Connected team are doing a lot more than just adding voice controls to Toyotas. Toyota Connected is a new startup with Toyota Motor Corporation, based in Plano, Texas, and along with running this nimble team, Hicks is chief digital officer and chief information officer of Toyota Motor North America. He has hired 100 full-time employees and 50 contractors to Toyota Connected and has designs on getting to 200. The mission: quickly ideate and iterate like the best in Silicon Valley. And they have plenty of ideas in the works.
Say you’re hungry. Instead of doing a Yelp search for a restaurant and the subsequent Open Table reservation request, you could hit the voice-command button in your car and ask for recommendations based on your location and direction of travel. Then once you decided your destination, the car could make the reservation based on the number of buckled seat belts detected.
What if you were driving in to work for a morning meeting and were going to be late because of traffic? You might not realize it, but a car with real-time traffic monitoring could determine that the traffic ahead would cause a delay and then offer to send a message to the meeting organizer or dial you into the meeting automatically from the car.
Does that sound like a future you want to live in? Hicks hope so. “We want to free customers from the tyranny of technology,” he says, calling the improved experience “flow.” Improving flow means not only making technology seamless, but also making sure cars communicate safely and intelligently with each other, with infrastructure (like roads, bridges, buildings), and with devices like your phone, watch, and whatever else the future holds.
But what about privacy concerns, especially in light of the recent data-sharing scandals at Facebook? Hicks says Toyota has the right—and rightfully conservative—approach to data sharing, as outlined in the company’s privacy rights statement posted big and bold on the company’s website. But he concedes that the industry must proceed with caution. “We have one chance to get it right,” he says. “If we betray the trust of our customers, they’ll never come back.”
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