Toyota Launches OnStar Competitor

January 8, 2009

Intrigued by the popularity of GM's OnStar, Toyota has announced that it will offer a built-in safety service in some Toyota and Lexus models as soon as summer 2009. The services will have different names--Safety Connect for Toyotas, Enform for the Lexus (presumably because "Safety Connect" sounds too lowbrow)--but the features will be similar.

Like OnStar, Safety Connect/Enform users will be able to press a button on the hardware interface to receive immediate assistance for flat tires, dead batteries, and the like. Operator contact will also be triggered in the event of airbag deployment. And both, of course, will require a subscription after the first year. The Enform system goes a bit further, providing a voice interface for making phone calls and getting directions. The potential downside? The company's "Lexus Insider" podcasts, which may be foisted upon you.

My question would be: which way is this technology going? Are all automakers moving toward in-dash setups, or are the Tom-Toms and Garmins of the world set to take over? In its press release, Toyota claims that built-in systems are safer and more reliable, but portable systems are, well, portable. What's your take?

--Richard Read

[via Autoweek]

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