Today, Toyota announced that it plans to develop a private social network for its vehicle owners. Toyota will develop the network, called Toyota Friend, with the San Francisco cloud-computing company Salesforce.com. According to Toyota, drivers will be able to use Toyota Friend to stay connected with their cars, their local dealers, and each other.
Toyota Friend's not going to come along till next year, and at first it will only be available in Japan. The Wall Street Journal reports that a "global roll out" will occur later in 2012. Users will be able to access Toyota Friend on smartphones, computers--indeed, "all devices including the car," according to ZDNet. (But only if that car is electric or hybrid: it's not yet clear whether Toyota will include the service with gas-powered cars.)
And what do you do once you're on Toyota Friend? Well, you can surf the network for maintenance tips and company news. You can figure out where the nearest charging station is. You can exchange messages with other drivers (and make your exchanges visible on Facebook and Twitter, if you choose). When you're away from your car, you can log on and check to see whether its battery is getting low.
"The car is the true mobile device," Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said recently. And Toyota president Akio Toyoda said the social network "represents a concrete step towards creating a more mobile society." Given that Toyota saw a 77 percent decline in profits last quarter, thanks in large part to the earthquake that hit Japan, it's not hard to see why the company would be interested in new potential revenue streams. Although we're not sure people using their cars to have conversations on Twitter is going to make the roads any safer.