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Toyota to set up social network

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda announced the company's  alliance with Salesforce.com for "Toyota Friend," a private social network for Toyota owners. "I hope cars can become friends with their users," he said.
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda announced the company's alliance with Salesforce.com for "Toyota Friend," a private social network for Toyota owners. "I hope cars can become friends with their users," he said. ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOKYO — Toyota is setting up a social networking service with the help of a U.S. Internet company and Microsoft so drivers can interact with their cars in a way that's similar to posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Salesforce.com, based in San Francisco, announced their alliance Monday to launch "Toyota Friend," 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 cell 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."

Because many next-generation cars need to be recharged, drivers might need real-time information, such as the battery level of their cars and locations of charging stations, more than regular gas-engine 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.

The companies did not give details of how the technology, such as the content of the talking car's dialogues, will be managed. But officials said the answers will be automated through sensors in the car.

If your car is due for an inspection, for example, the owner will be notified through "Toyota Friend," which will automatically link to a dealer to set up an appointment.

Toyota's says its service will start in Japan in 2012 and will be offered later worldwide, initially with electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

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