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Toyota will boost car connectivity via built-in flat panel satellites

At the far less splashy end of the Detroit Auto Show spectrum, Toyota revealed its Mirai-based research vehicle, which also showcases the benefits of its partnership with Kymeta.

The Japanese automaker recently announced it would invest $1 billion in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to prepare for the next generation of vehicle safety systems. This Mirai model is no doubt part of those experiments. It boasts a flat-panel satellite antenna from Kymeta, black leather seats, rear-seat infotainment systems, and numerous additional displays.

Some of the Mirai’s features are a mystery, but we do know that its satellite technology is destined to aid with high-speed data transfer. Toyota will install a Data Communications Module into future vehicles to hasten the processing of “huge amounts” of data that might play into safety systems and car-to-car communication.

Related: Toyota Dumps $1 Billion Into A New Generation Of Safety Systems

As opposed to traditional dish-based satellites, Kymeta’s satellite antennas use software and liquid crystals rather than mechanical components to electronically track and steer themselves towards satellites. This flat-panel system is one that can be installed from the factory or in the after-market.

“For several years, Toyota met with emerging companies around the world to investigate new technologies,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. “We were very excited to learn about Kymeta, because their flat antennae technology could solve the challenge of vehicle-based satellite communications.”

Toyota claims that satellite-based data communication isn’t as prone to “out of network” issues, a huge plus in cases of a vehicle collision or natural disaster. Though much of Toyota’s other research will yield results five to fifteen years off, satellite integration into production models, and thus faster data transfer, is likely right around the corner. One indication of Toyota’s commitment to this approach is the car company’s recent investment of $5 million into Kymetra to “accelerate its research.”