By on November 12, 2019

Toyota and Japanese weather information provider Weathernews Inc. have been running tests aimed at improving the accuracy of rain forecasts by using driving data from connected cars — or, more specifically, their windshield wipers. Based on the assumption that wiper operations correspond with the presence of precipitation, matching the severity to speed settings, the pair feel they can leverage customer information to close info gaps created by low-altitude rain clouds that are difficult to track.

With an official announcement issued earlier this month, both companies are framing this as an effective way to bolster roadway safety and offer new services to its customers. But it also raises the usual round of privacy concerns re: connected vehicles, while potentially offering some interesting and useful features — like localized flood warnings and other traffic advisories. 

From Weathernews:

In recent years, the growing severity of weather phenomena and the resulting damage have become a societal issue, and there is an unprecedented demand for local, immediate weather information, as well as information on how to respond. To meet these needs, it is necessary to determine more detailed and accurate weather conditions in real-time. However, existing weather observation tools have limitations in their installation locations and measurement intervals.

Meanwhile, the development of IoT technology has ushered in an age where various devices are equipped with communication functions. The same is true for vehicles, and by gathering driving data and condition data from connected vehicles equipped with IoT technology, it is possible to detect phenomena that could impact their driving and behavior.

Potentially, sure, but amassing enough useful data to allow meteorologist to start making useful assumptions will take time. In the short term, the only real benefit you could expect is more accurate forecasting for your immediate area.

Basically, your car transmits data to Toyota and the bit about whether or not you’ve got your wipers on is then forwarded to Weathernews. The data also works in tandem with information collected an existing meteorological observation network of some 13,000 locations across Japan. The duo have also put together an AI algorithm that predicts flooded locations on roads, with verification testing taking place in October — suggesting they’ll be able to do more than simply let people know how hard its raining.

For now, it’s limited to Japan. Toyota aims to have the brunt of its fleet connected to the internet as soon as possible, meaning there’s nothing stopping these kinds of data partnerships from spreading to other markets. We’ll let you debate whether or not that’s desirable.

[Image: What Photo/Shutterstock]

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13 Comments on “Toyota Thinks Connected Wiper Data Can Improve Weather Forecasts...”

  • avatar

    This is rather stupid and typical of the regimented, inside-the-lines Japanese way of thinking (like the Honda lawn tractor that cut grass…but ONLY grass, and only on billiard table-smooth ground).

    As a brash outside-the-lines fat American my wiper operations only correspond with falling rain when at a standstill or extremely low-speed driving. At suburban and highway speed wiper operation corresponds only with road spray from surrounding vehicles or with rainfall that is sufficiently heavy to be easily radar traceable.

    Road spray exists long after actual precipitation dissipates. A lot of clueless drivers that have to turn on their wipers don’t bother to turn them off until they start chattering across a long-dry windshield.

    • 0 avatar

      @cdotson – I am in agreement with you. Additionally, if you do sensible things such as not use the useless blue window wash and instead us RainX window wash you get additional advantage of having at least some coating on your windscreen and often do not need to use your wipers at highway speeds. I often am on the interstate without my wipers on while other cars have theirs at full speed. if you regularly wash you car with a good soap that has wax in it or get the wax spray at the automatic car wash this can have similar effects. Using RainX can be the best but that takes extra work.

      I also see people that have their wipers running on hi and it is barely doing anything and many people that have them on low and not delay. An old friend tended to be heavy handed and would just slam the wiper stalk all the way regardless of the amount of rain and would usually not turn them off until they were making very noticeable squeaking sound.

      With all that said if they do there homework you should be able to account for these behaviors in the model but as cdotson mentions, you would have to account for this at a regional level as road conditions and varying behaviors would skew the data.

      Having said all that I think the best way to do this would to only use data from cars that have rain sensing wipers. You would know that they are in automatic mode and with the ones I have experience with there is a sensitivity adjustment that lets you tailor it to your preference. Even with, this accounting for road spray after the rain event is an interesting problem for data scientists. Could we improve the rain sensors to detect the difference between spray and rain drops, or maybe more specifically mist vs. rain drops?

    • 0 avatar

      Closer to home, American scientist have figured out how it to the tongue to measure weight of food ingested vs volume exerted to better understand our eating habbits.

  • avatar

    Big Brother is wiping?

  • avatar

    This is actually a brilliant use of crowd sourced data.

    My wife’s Infiniti has some tie in with SiriusXM weather, we don’t pay for it but it pop ups severe weather alerts when in effect. This is helpful on longer drives when you enter an area that might have a tornado or flood watch. Most of the time you are aware of general weather conditions but having more localized information is great. Where I live in southern FL there can be an epic downpour just 2-5 miles away despite it being sunny where you are.

  • avatar

    There’s always a 20-square-meter rainstorm just outside the carwash exit.

  • avatar

    This won’t work. When I lived in Texas I would see so many cars after an East Texas gutter washer driving down the road with the wipers still on long after it stopped raining, and well past the road spray on the road. I don’t understand how anyone can drive that way – I would be cringing over the destruction I am causing to my windshield.

  • avatar

    My rain-sensing wipers on my Accord are OK, but they tend to increase speed (or decrease the delay) a little quicker than I would, and there’s not enough adjustment to dial that tendency out — only four sensitivity settings.

    • 0 avatar


      I think I would hate automatic wipers. I can do it myself. I had a high trim Ford Edge rental last week up in central NY and PA. It had auto hi/low beam headlights.

      Hated it. I can do it.

      PS- My Forester. They have an off button for the lane departure. Got tired of the constant beeping and tugging (dam car, I wasn’t about to crash dammit)
      Get this. ONCE YOU TURN IT OFF. IT STAYS OFF WHEN YOU RESTART THE CAR. Just like an airplane. Thank you. Oh,Subaru is an aerospace company…..

  • avatar

    And how many times have you stopped at a red light on a cloudy day where maybe a droplet or two of rain falls in a minute, glance in your rearview mirror, and see a Karen in her 2.0T cRoSsoVEr with her wipers on full speed?

  • avatar

    “Based on the assumption that wiper operations correspond with the presence of precipitation…..”.

    I’m truly in awe of these guys.

  • avatar

    OEM’s: If the vehicle is smart enough to turn the wipers on when it is raining, it should also turn the headlights on when the wipers are on. Thank you.

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