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.
a similar capability, as does GM's
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
, 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.