Pressing forward after production and supplier woes after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, Toyota is setting up a social networking service with the help of San Francisco-based Salesforce.com and Microsoft that will allow drivers to interact with their cars in ways similar to Twitter and Facebook. In the joint project, Toyota is investing $5.5 million, Microsoft $4.1 million and Salesforce.com $2.8 million.
Among other things, Toyota owners will be able to give their car a name and it will be able to send messages to the driver about reminders to charge their hybrid car, get its oil changed or show up for a scheduled inspection.
“Toyota Friend,” is dubbed as a private social network for Toyota owners that works similar to Twitter tweets. In a demo at a Tokyo showroom, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid found out through a cell phone message reminder from his Prius he calls “Pre-boy” that he should recharge his car overnight. When the owner plugged in his car to recharge it, the car replied, “The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow.”
The exchanges can be kept private, or be shared with other “Toyota Friend” users, as well as made public on Facebook, Twitter and other services, the company said.
The companies didn’t give details of how the technology will be managed, but said the dialog will be generated through sensors in the car, reported The AP.
If your car is up for an inspection, for example, the owner will be notified through “Toyota Friend,” which will in turn automatically link to a dealer to set up an appointment.
The service, built on open-source cloud platforms that are the specialty of Salesforce.com, as well as on Microsoft’s platform, will start in Japan in 2012, and will be offered later worldwide, initially with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, according to Toyota.
RBR-TVBR observation: Sounds like an interesting service to keep up with the latest generation of internet users. Many owners are indeed in love with their cars and this may bring more folks into the showroom. The only question is we doubt the social network aspect of showing friends and other Toyota owners the communications you’re having with your car is going to gain much “traction,” no pun intended.