Automobiles Get Socially Connected

By Paula Bernier July 06, 2011

Cars and communications can be a bad combination when it involves motorists talking or texting while driving. But Salesforce.com believes that leveraging social networking to allow people-to-automobile communications is a perfect mix. In line with that thinking, Salesforce.com and Toyota Motor Corp. recently announced an initiative called Toyota Friend – a private social network for that connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota.

Powered by Salesforce Chatter, Toyota Friend will provide product and service information, car care tips, and notification via if a vehicle requires maintenance. For example, if a Prius electric vehicle is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a “tweet”-like alert.

Toyota Friend also will enable users to extend their communication to others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. This private social network for Toyota owners initially will be offered in Japan in Toyota’s electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles due in 2012.

Of course, this is just among the latest initiative that has the automotive industry expanding their products’ capabilities on the communications front. Indeed, car and truck brands had a strong presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early this year, with companies like Audi and Hyundai operating huge booths on the show floor, and top management from some of the nation’s leading automotive companies giving two of the six keynote addresses at the event. Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management at AUDI AG, and Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., were among those speaking at the show.

Ford is among the automotive leaders providing voice-enabled and driver’s dash-based interfaces for drivers and passengers so distraction from using communications in the car is minimized.

“We’re trying to use technology to do things in safer ways,” Jim Buczkowski, fellow and director of electrical and electronic systems research and advanced engineering for Ford, told TechZone360 earlier this year.

The car was also the focus of a CES demonstration that Alcatel Lucent staged with select ng connect program partners. The Connected Car demo at CES, which Alcatel Lucent put together with partner QNX Software Systems, highlighted in-vehicle infotainment and advanced safety features. Each seat in the Toyota vehicle in the demo had its own screen, through which passengers can make a phone call, and have their own unique views into their own selections of games, widgets, movies and other content. They also have the ability to pull content from their home-based devices and to purchase content from online portals. Each passenger has a Bluetooth headset, so as to reduce driver distraction. The Connected Car also includes its own Wi-Fi hotspot. And the vehicle’s interface is ties into the user’s home gateway so driver and passengers can do home energy monitoring and control remotely. Of course, a GPS system is also part of the mix, and the related application not only provides directions, but offers quick links and maps to nearby banks, coffee spots, gas stations, hospitals and malls.




Edited by Rich Steeves

Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

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