Toyota Plans Social Net for Customers

Toyota has joined with to offer owners of Toyota's electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles a private social network for sharing maintenance tips, the companies announced last month.

The social network, called Toyota Friend, will let the automaker deliver up-to-date information and remind owners of maintenance schedules. For example, using the Salesforce Chatter service, Toyota could alert a customer whose vehicle is low on battery power and needs recharging.

The automaker will launch Toyota Friend next year in Japan, followed by the U.S. and Europe, initially for owners of electric vehicles and then for buyers of plug-in hybrids.

Toyota will know from chips installed in each electric-powered vehicle what advice to give owners via its automated response system, said company spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto.

It is easiest to program the electric and hybrid vehicles for the service, Hashimoto said. Toyota hasn't said whether it will later add buyers of gasoline-powered vehicles to the social network.

The network can also loop in Toyota dealerships. And vehicle owners can choose to invite others, such as friends or family members, by using the network's invitation functions. Toyota Friend applications will be available for smartphones and tablets, and traditional PCs will be able to access the service on the Web.

Microsoft will build the cloud-based Toyota Friend network.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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