Toyota believes that cars can be friends, and in the current era of social networking websites drivers should be offered an opportunity to interact with their cars in the digital world just like they do with their buddies, family and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and other services of this kind. On Monday, May 23, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced that it had formed a strategic alliance with San Francisco-based enterprise cloud computing company Salesforce.com to develop and launch Toyota Friend, a private social network for Toyota customers and their vehicles.
According to Toyota Motor’s press release, “Salesforce.com and TMC will each make investments in Toyota Media Service Co., which oversees TMC’s global cloud platform development. Salesforce.com will invest 223 million yen [$2.8 million] and TMC will invest 442 million yen [$5.5 million]. Microsoft Corporation, which on April 6 announced a strategic partnership with TMC to build a global platform for next generation telematics services, will invest 350 million yen [$4.1 million].”
Image: Kiyoshi Ota/ BLOOMBERG—Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc.
The private social network, which will be launched first in Japan, will be introduced initially for those who will own Toyota’s electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV) due in 2012. It will connect drivers, their cars, dealership and Toyota—the users will receive product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips, and get tweet alerts in case an EV or PHV is running low on battery power. Just like it is with other social websites, Toyota Friend users will be able to share the notifications within the network as well as extend their communication to family, friends, and others through public social platforms. Drivers will be able to access the platform though their smart phones, tablet PCs, and other advanced mobile devices.
Here’s the example of how the system will work (according to The Washington Post), “In a demonstration at a Tokyo showroom, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid found out through a cell phone message from his Prius called ‘Pre-boy’ that he should remember to 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.’”
Today, millions of cars are equipped with navigation systems and have a range of network-linking features, but the Toyota’s network makes a car interact with a driver just like it is a conscious organism—who knows, maybe soon we will discuss latest political news with our sedan.
“Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today [May 23] is an important step forward in achieving that goal,” commented TMC President Akio Toyoda.