'Toyota Friend' Links Driver, Car, Dealer and Factory

May 24, 2011

Toyota has developed a new telematics system called “Toyota Friend”, which looks to bring interactive social media into your Toyota automobile.

Developed jointly between Toyota and Salesforce.com, the system allows communication between the driver, the car, the dealership and the factory via instant messaging. The goal is to keep car owners aware of their car’s condition, and to allow direct communication between owners.

Toyota Friend will advise you when it’s time to schedule an oil change, and may even go so far as to advise of your dealership’s service schedule. Recalls could be handled in real time (assuming there were no replacement parts involved), since the factory would be able to communicate directly with the owners of specific Toyota models. Conversely, owners would be able to advise their dealership and the factory of a breakdown or problem as it occurs, potentially shortening the amount of time between the origin of a problem and the recall to resolve it.

For plug-in hybrid (or eventually, EV) owners, Toyota Friend can advise you of the ideal charging schedule to reduce demand on the electric grid. If that time isn’t convenient for owners, Toyota Friend can be used to schedule a delayed charging via any internet-connected device. A separate telematics project with Microsoft will use cloud-based computing to monitor systems such as a hybrid vehicle’s state of battery charge.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, is a big proponent of onboard telematics and social networking. Toyoda sees the implementation of such technology as necessary, saying, “Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transition.”

The Toyota Friend system will be implemented in Japan beginning in 2012. Toyota will introduce it first on the Prius plug-in hybrid, followed by their new electric vehicle. While Toyota ultimately has plans to launch the system worldwide, there is no current timeline for a rollout beyond their domestic market.

[Automotive News]

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