Toyota adding Apple CarPlay escape, docked menu bank as OTA infotainment update

Toyota will be sending out an over-the-air update to all Toyota and Lexus vehicles that will leave its touchscreen infotainment system's bank of menu icons permanently docked on-screen, even while using Apple CarPlay. This will correct a key flaw and complaint with the current system: there's no quick way to escape CarPlay for one of the car's native infotainment menus. For instance, going between Google Maps and satellite radio.

The OTA update will be sent to all vehicles equipped with the current Toyota/Lexus infotainment system that debuted in the redesigned Lexus NX and spread thereafter throughout the lineups of both brands. It applies to all screen sizes. Although a Toyota representative confirmed the scope of this update, he did not have a specific schedule for when these updates will be sent out.

Currently, the infotainment system lacks the two most common means of escaping Apple CarPlay: a "Home" button (as the previous-generation Toyota system had as a physical button) or a permanently docked menu icon that goes one step further than a Home button by giving you an express route to functions like radio, phone navigation or vehicle settings. This omission can be a constant source of frustration and was the main reason we've been less than enamored with this system since its introduction. We weren't alone.






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Toyota Tacoma chief engineer Sheldon Brown says he was "adamant" about adding the permanently docked menu bank to the infotainment system for the very reasons listed above.

"We flashed 3,000 (Tacoma) units to make sure we didn't have to OTA existing builds," he said, quite pleased that he was able to make the change happen. That it can go beyond a new model like the Tacoma or already-built cars is a triumph of OTA updates.

Now, you might have noticed we've only been mentioning Apple CarPlay. Toyota confirmed that this update does not apply to Android Auto, which has the exact same escape problem. There was no comment regarding if or when that might be rectified.

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