Imagine driving your car with a dedicated drone following and filming your progress from above. It’s an idea that has proved a winning innovation in Toyota’s Silicon Valley App Design Competition, earning the Eye in the Sky team a $10,000 prize.

Toyota hosted the contest this week (6 and 7 December) to find the best new app for its CAN-Gateway ECU* platform, which uses data from vehicle sensors. The winning concept was created as part of the Onramp 2014 Challenge, a codefest which brought together a field of more than 20 teams of top-level developers from among Silicon Valley’s IT start-up communities.

Each team had 24 hours to develop innovative apps, using a fleet of six Scion FR-S – the North American equivalent of the Toyota GT86 – on a driving course to gather data. The event provided the first public access to Toyota’s new Vehicle Data Visualiser, a vehicle-to-app connectivity platform. This allowed participants to receive real-time vehicle data on mobile devices via Bluetooth, so they could interact with the cars while they were being driven on the course.

More than 20 apps were produced in three categories, Safety, Fun and Efficiency. Eye in the Sky is a close-follow vehicle companion drone that is equipped with video cameras to follow and film the vehicle independently.

Eye in the Sky team member Nathan Schuett said: “We were excited about the unique opportunity to access this car data on a closed course. To combine that with a drone following the car was too great an opportunity to pass up.”

His team colleague David Witt added: “Our idea was to prove that the concept of parallel design and development would quickly bring a great product to life.”

Riki Inuzuka, Toyota Managing Officer, said: “We are seeing a new generation of automotive enthusiasts emerge, one that thrives on open innovation and connectivity. Our goal with this event was to communicate the joy of driving to this generation, so Silicon Valley, as a hub for cutting-edge IT, seemed like a natural fit.”


* Abbreviation of Controller Area Network-Gateway Electronic Control Unit, which is a platform that enables app developers to make use of vehicle data. The platform receives CAN signals, which are used in on-board computers, and converts them to work with standardised protocols such as USB and Bluetooth.

Note to editors: for more information about the event, please visit its dedicated website here.

Toyota Press Team

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  • Eye in the Sky (winner of Onramp 2014 Challenge) UI mock-up

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  • The winning team, Eye in the Sky

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  • Scion FR-S (Toyota GT86) Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada making a speech at the Onramp 2014 Challenge

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  • Scion FR-S (Toyota GT86) used in the Onramp 2014 Challenge

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