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Toyota launches social network for the car

Toyota launches social network for the car

Toyota is setting up a social networking service with the help of Salesforce.com and Microsoft so drivers can interact with their cars in ways similar to the way humans communicate on Twitter and Facebook.

"Toyota Friend" will be a private social network for Toyota owners, giving birth to the era of the talking car. 

In a demonstration at a Tokyo showroom, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid found out through a mobile 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."

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 did not give details of how the technology, such as the content of the talking car's dialogues, will be managed. But officials said the answers will be automated through sensors in the car.

If your car is due for a service, for example, the owner will be notified through "Toyota Friend," which will in turn automatically link to a dealer to set up an appointment.

Toyota is investing more than £3m, Microsoft is investing around £2m) and Salesforce.com £1m in the project.

Many cars are already equipped with navigation and other network-linking capabilities, and can function as a mobile device just like an iPhone or a Blackberry.

Toyota's 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.

According to Toyota President Akio Toyoda, with the popularity of social networking, cars and their makers should become part of that online interaction.

"I hope cars can become friends with their users, and customers will see Toyota as a friend," he said. "I want a relationship with my car in the same way we have a relationship with our friends on social networks."

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