William Mzimba (L), CEO of Vodacom Business; Mteto Nyati (M), CEO of Altron Group; Andrew Kirby (R), President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors. Picture: SUPPLIED
William Mzimba (L), CEO of Vodacom Business; Mteto Nyati (M), CEO of Altron Group; Andrew Kirby (R), President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors. Picture: SUPPLIED

Car manufacturer Toyota has partnered with technology and telecom companies to bring wireless internet connectivity to its new vehicles. 

The new partnership with Altron and Vodacom may signal a new frontier for technology and telecommunications companies looking to expand their reach with consumers and income streams.  

All new Toyota and Lexus models sold in SA from September will be fitted with in-car wi-fi connectivity, said Toyota CEO Andrew Kirby. Altron will provide the Wi-Fi device and vehicle monitoring through Vodacom’s data network. 

The service allows new car owners through the use of MyToyota mobile app to also check the health of their car battery, receive vehicle mileage details, and find their cars in crowded areas using GPS and roadside assistance.

Toyota SA is the first of the global automotive company’s operations to offer this service.

“The importance of telematics and telecommunications in tomorrow’s vehicles cannot be overstated,” Kirby said.

Toyota has more than 950,000 vehicles across SA. It expects to sell about 130,000 by the end of 2019. 

Kirby said the new wi-fi system can also be fitted into older Toyota models, though this will come at a cost.

Vodacom business CEO William Mzimba said the car industry presents an exciting opportunity to provide data-based services similar to what is typically found in the home environment.

Vodacom and Toyota are creating special data bundles and packages that Toyota owners will be able to use, he said. Vehicle owners will be able to top up their data through the MyToyota app.

Apart from this deal, Mzimba said Vodacom has been working with other car manufacturers for some time, to provide connectivity but said the Toyota offering was unique in its set-up and the services they can provide.

Vodacom will integrate its music-streaming, gaming and video-streaming services into the Toyota Connect platform. 

Altron Group CEO Mteto Nyati said the technology, developed by its vehicle-tracking unit Netstar, had taken 18 months to develop. Netstar would have a revenue-sharing agreement with Vodacom for the data bundles specifically for Toyota customers, he said.

Other carmakers such as Germany’s BMW and the Elon Musk’s  Tesla have also emphasised the integration of mobile phones, vehicles and monitoring systems.

gavazam@businesslive.co.za