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Toyota’s interactive user guide app is actually a good idea

The Owners’ Manual is a fairly well understood concept at this time. I doubt that most of the Jalopnik audience will say that there is a need for improvement ̵

1; it is a floppy disk book that contains general information about your car, and it serves that purpose well. But the technology gives us new, potentially more practical and engaging ways to convey information, and therefore I think that the interactive manual app thing Toyota puts together with the new Sienna, can be a pretty good idea.

Toyota says this app will be offered as a “pilot program” on the minibus, which suggests that the digital experience will be optional for those who wish. We have reached out for more clarification on that front. Unlike most “digital” user manuals, this is not a PDF version of the book uploaded to the Toyota website; it is software with a 3D model of Sienna that can refine details inside and out, and which is highly searchable through typed or voice queries. And because it’s 2021, it’s talking back to you through an assistant with a slightly disturbing voice called Joya.

Personally, I do not think my user manual need to talk about me; this just seems like a way for Toyota to pretend it has the technical chops of an Apple or Google, because any automaker is desperate for that perception. Then again, if someone is more likely to ask an app “How do I pair my phone to Sienna” instead of emptying through a 400-page manual flooded with information that does not directly apply to their model, then it might be for the best.

Not coincidentally, Toyota relies on Google’s cloud services to make all of this possible. If there’s something like Google Assistant on Android phones, it should make the app pretty good at finding the right answers, even if you’re not asking a specific question with the ideal wording. And it also covers a range of topics, from how to fold the back seats to explain how the camera around the field of view works.

I’m sure there will be gaps in the knowledge base, and therefore Toyota should probably continue to publish the text-based manuals in the meantime. That said, if this app can answer any questions faster than vaguely searching on Google or skimming a tight manual, I think it’s worth a try.

Update 12:38 PM ET: Toyota answered our question about how to access the app, who can access it and whether the regular manual will still be offered. (It will!)

Toyota Driver’s Companion application is integrated into the One Toyota app (for Toyota customers) – and it’s exclusive to 2021 Sienna owners. Anyone can download the One Toyota app, but in order to use the app, it requires a Toyota VIN number. And when you enter a VIN number for a 2021 Sienna, you automatically get access to the Driver’s Companion program.

In addition, the driver manual will still be available with 2021 Sienna models – Driver’s Companion is intended to be an improvement on the manual.

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