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Toyota To Upgrade Telematics Services

4/07/2011 11:09:07 AM Eastern

Toyota City, Japan - Toyota will
upgrade its telematics capabilities in the U.S. and worldwide through a
Microsoft partnership that, among other things, will enable consumers to
control and monitor the vehicles' systems via smartphones.

 Ford already
offers
a similar capability, as does GM's OnStar
subsidiary
.

 The Toyota service will use Microsoft's
cloud-computing Windows Azure platform to offer Toyota telematics services
throughout the world. In the U.S., Toyota began offering telematics services on
select 2010-model-year U.S. models through Dallas-based ATX Group, which provides GPS-based automatic
collision notification, in-vehicle emergency assistance (SOS) button, roadside
assistance and stolen-vehicle location service.

 Some Azure-based telematics services will be
available on electric and plug-in hybrid Toyotas in 2012, but the telematic
platform won't be finished until 2015.

 
Starting in 2012, customers who purchase one of Toyota's electric or
plug-in hybrid vehicles will be able to connect via the cloud to control and
monitor their car from anywhere, The companies said.  Consumers, for example, will be able to turn
on the heat or AC in their car, dynamically monitor miles until the next
charging station through their GPS system, and use a smart phone to remotely
check battery power or maintenance information. Consumers would also be able to
remotely command a car to charge at the time of day when energy demand is low,
reducing charging costs.

The companies also see potential for
monitoring and controlling home systems remotely from the car.

 Toyota president Akio Toyoda said the Azure
platform will also turn cars into information terminals, "moving beyond today's
GPS navigation and wireless safety communications, while at the same time
enhancing driver and traffic safety." For example, he said, "this new system
will include advanced car-telematics, like virtual operators with voice
recognition, management of vehicle charging to reduce stress on energy supply,
and remote control of appliances, heating and lighting at home."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his
cloud platform "will be able to deliver these new applications and services in
the 170 countries where Toyota cars are sold." In the past, he said, "this type
of service was limited to only major markets where the automotive maker could
build and maintain a datacenter." Toyota also benefits from paying only for the
computing power it uses and speeding its telematics entry into new markets.