Service will connect owners with live car data, among other features.
By Lisa Lacy
Toyota is rolling out a private social network for Toyota customers and their cars.
Launching initially in Japan with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the Toyota Friend network will run on private social network platform Salesforce Chatter. It will connect vehicle owners to each other and to the brand, and among other things will help them use mobile apps to schedule maintenance.
Paul Nolasco, assistant manager of Toyota's global communications department, said the service will help "retain appeal for consumers over the next century."
Toyota Friend can be used with smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices as well as the dashboard of some models. When the car is due for maintenance, it sends the owner a "tweet-like" message. The owner can then reply to the car, which could then proceed, if directed by the owner, to contact the dealer for an appointment.
Using Toyota Friend, vehicles can transmit oil level, tire pressure, and battery charge data, and owners can exchange information on environmentally friendly driving methods and recommended destinations. They can even turn on seat warmers from their mobile devices on cold days.
Owners will also be able to use the service to post content to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.
"Conventionally, our cars can communicate with us via warning lights and buzzers. But this same information can be relayed to us through [social network systems], like much of the other information we receive daily," Nolasco says.
According to Nolasco, Salesforce.com proposed the idea of a private network for Toyota owners and it "meshed extremely well with ideas that our company had envisioned for the future of the automobile, namely enhancing the connectivity of automobiles and their users."
The notion of gathering data through mobile apps is not new. In 2009, AKQA created an app that used in-car USB ports to let U.K. car owners track their CO2 emissions via an application. The initiative won a Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Lions ad festival.
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