Most of us have gotten used to texts, tweets and Facebook alerts – but are you ready to get them from your car as well as your friends, associates and contacts? Thanks to the efforts of Toyota and Microsoft you may soon get alerts from your car telling you not to forget to plug it in tonight or that its left front tire is low 2.3 psi.
According to a story just posted on News.com.au, Toyota and the San Francisco-based Salesforce.com announced an alliance to launch Toyota Friend, a social network exclusively for Toyota owners.
At a Toyota showroom demonstration, a plug-in Prius owner received a mobile phone message from his Toyota (with a user name of Pre-boy) saying he should recharge his car overnight.
When the car was plugged it texted, “The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow.”
As more cars require charging drivers will need information on the battery level of cars and where to find charging stations more than conventional car drivers. The service allows preferences so the messages can be kept private or shared with other Toyota Friends, or made public on Facebook, Twitter and other services.
No details were provided on how the technology will be managed, for instance the content of the talking car’s dialogues, but officials did state answers would be automated utilizing sensors in the car.
In real world application, this system will even contact your dealer to make an appointment when scheduled maintenance of required inspections are due – as the owner you will be notified through Toyota Friend.
The project required a joint investment of $5.5 million from Toyota, $4.1 million by Microsoft and $2.8 million on behalf of Salesforce.com.
Cars equipped with navigation and other network-linking capabilities make them into virtual self-mobile devices.
Toyota’s service relies on open-source cloud platforms, the specialty of Salesforce.com, as well as on the Microsoft platform and will start in Japan in 2012. It will be offered later worldwide, initially on electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, Toyota said.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, a well-known fan of racing, said he always chats with his car when speeding around the track. Based on the popularity of social networking, cars and their manufacturers should be part of that online community, he said.
“I hope cars can become friends with their users, and customers will see Toyota as a friend,” Toyoda concluded.
Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff said social networks add value to products and companies, helping Toyota gather information not only about their owners but also about how the car is working.
“I want a relationship with my car in the same way we have a relationship with our friends on social networks,” he said.
As with most innovations, this will be embraced wholeheartedly by many and shunned as an intrusion into privacy by others.
“While I intend to restrict my friendships to humans, I must admit that I already have a certain affection for my Prius — and this service will only help me appreciate it more,” said Gina Hardin, a longtime Prius owner and the subject of our story, Why Drive a Prius. “Unless, of course, it tries to become my real friend by seeking to know me better and talking too much. In which case, I will feel it is being inappropriately intimate and will want to dump it. If it then shares my intimacies with others, I will feel that it has abused my affections. That would make me feel less friendly toward Toyota.”
Have you noticed how the movement to make cars talk to you 20 years ago went down in flames? Nobody really wanted the car to tell you, “The door is ajar.” In theory, the Toyota service will be more helpful and less annoying than that previous innovation.