My new internet friend is a car
Car giant Toyota is setting up an internet social networking service so drivers can interact with their vehicles in a way similar to posting on Facebook or Twitter.
Toyota Friend is a private social network for Toyota owners.
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."
Since many next-generation cars need to be recharged, drivers may need real-time information, such as the battery level of their cars and locations of charging stations, more than normal petrol engined cars.
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.
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 plan is a joint effort between Toyota, Microsoft and Salesforce.com.
Toyota's service, built on open-source cloud platforms that are the speciality 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.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, a racing fan, said he always "talks" with his car when he is zipping around on the circuit.
He explained that amid the popularity of social networking, cars and their makers can become part of that social interaction: "I hope cars can become friends with their users, and customers will see Toyota as a friend," he said.