In the Odyssey, Homer repeatedly describes the spreading light of a new day as “dawn with pink fingers.” The dawn of subscription-based vehicle features has arrived, but instead of pink fingers, these are the fat fingers of profit spreading out to get what they can from your wallet. Toyota is joining the fray with an update to its key-based remote start feature for vehicles dating back to 2018. Car retailer site CoPilot wrote about this over the summer when discussing the new RAV4, but the matter flew under the radar until a Reddit report. user decided to read the fine print in Toyota’s marketing materials for the carmaker’s Remote Connect app suite. The controversial part, as Toyota confirmed to The Drive, is that Toyota is making the key fob-based remote start part of its Remote Connect services. Toyota will require owners to pay for a subscription to use the remote start feature on their key fob after a trial period, which is three to 10 years, has ended.
We have to explain that there are two ways to start Toyota vehicles remotely. One uses the fob, a chip in the key that sends radio signals to a chip in the car to tell the car to start. It relies only on proximity communication between key and car; typically, as long as the fob chip, fob battery, and vehicle chip are in good working order, you should be fine. But that’s not the case here, we’ll get to that. The second way is by using Toyota’s Remote Connect service package which costs $8 per month or $80 per year. These services work over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection and include remote starting, finding your car in a parking lot or finding charging stations for PHEVs, monitoring teenage drivers, and locking or unlocking the car.
Remote Connect comes in two levels, depending on the vehicle’s equipment, Audio Plus or Premium Audio. Remote Connect comes with a one-year trial period, but based on the vehicle manufacturer’s written material, the Audio Plus key fob will remote start for three years on select model year 2018 to 2020 vehicles, and will receive select model year 2020 vehicles. functionality for 10 years. The Premium Audio fob will run for 10 years on select models from 2018 to 2020. It sounds like owners can get functionality from two to ten years even without a Remote Connect subscription, but because the remote start info only specifies models up to the 2020 model year , who knows.
Since this applies to vehicles up to 2018, there are already owners who have realized the situation. If you’re wondering how the app-based system affects the key-based system, a forum thread on Toyota Nation on the subject explains that the remote start feature is built into the vehicle’s data communication module,” as they say. designed the remote launch for the app first and then it was an afterthought to get it to work from the fob as well.” So the fob should basically ask the car to start. Without a subscription, the car can say no.
The reason this only dates back to 2018 is because the 3G electronics in previous models are not compatible with LTE networks. To avoid having to update those cars, Toyota has decided that owners of Toyotas built before 2018 don’t need a subscription to use the remote control.