'Toyota Friend' to help car owners

Toyota has announced a new internet social networking service, enabling owners to become "friends" with their cars.

"Toyota Friend" is a private social network specially designed for owners of Toyota vehicles.

According to the car giant, users of the new service will be able to interact with their cars like they would with a friend on Facebook or Twitter.

During a demonstration at a Tokyo showroom, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid received a mobile phone message from his car, reminding him to recharge it overnight.

Later when the owner plugged in his Prius called "Pre-boy" to recharge it, the car replied, "The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow."

The service will provide drivers with real-time information regarding the battery level of their cars and locations of charging stations.

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.

Answers will be automated through sensors in the car.

If your car is up 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.

The plan is a joint effort between Toyota, Microsoft and Salesforce.com.

Copyright © Press Association 2011