Toyota and Microsoft unveil ‘smart car’ plans

Microsoft and Toyota have teamed up in a $12 million deal to bring a range of internet services to Toyota cars.

They’re putting the money into Toyota Media Service Company, a Toyota subsidiary that offers digital information services.

The unit will create a series of telematics applications on the Windows Azure cloud platform, starting with TMC’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles next year.

The aim is to build a complete global cloud platform by 2015 giving access to GPS, multimedia and – particularly – power management in all 170 countries in which Toyota operates. This could be done from a PC or phone as a simple app.

“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 – safely and conveniently,” says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

“For example, customers will be able to turn on the heat or AC in their car while their vehicle is plugged into the grid or dynamically monitor miles until the next charging station right from their GPS system. Or a customer could use a smart phone to check battery power or maintenance information remotely.”

People will also be able to remotely instruct their vehicle to charge at a cheaper time of day.

The system will even let drivers control devices at home, such as appliances, heating systems and lighting, with this part of the system currently being trialled in Japan.