US: Toyota tempts with telematics
Toyota Motor Sales USA this year will launch new telematics systems with some features similar to those pioneered by General Motors' OnStar.
Customised versions will be branded Safety Connect for Toyota models and Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, the latter adding more convenience-oriented features and advanced technologies to Toyota's luxury model line.
Cars will be equipped from late summer 2009 with hardware that can be activated upon subscription at dealerships. A one-year trial subscription will be included with new vehicle purchases.
"Prior to entering the US market full force, Toyota practised a deliberate approach to product development based on our experience in Japan, in-depth research and relentless product testing in order to both deliver to customers' expectations and produce systems befitting the Toyota name," said a spokesman. "Safety Connect and Lexus Enform are the results of several years of due diligence and dedicated teams working in partnership with our highly experienced providers."
Safety Connect will provide basic on-road services using built-in, rather than wireless, hand-held devices. Features will include automatic collision notification to emergency services using GPS and cellular phone technology if an airbag deploys or there is a severe rear-end collision.
The system can also track a stolen vehicle and summon emergency assistance for breakdowns and similar events via a dedicated SOS button.
ATX Group, a provider of global automotive telematics services for over a decade, will operate the response centre for Toyota.
The Lexus Enform version adds information and convenience features that even include weather reports.
"We specifically steered away from a one-size-fits-all approach," the spokesman said, "recognising that we have two distinct markets for telematics products and services and catering our offerings to each of our valued customer sets."
Destination Assist provides live operator assistance with finding places such as petrol stations, dry cleaners, museums and restaurants: 'point of interest' map data is sent wirelessly to the vehicle's navigation system.
The other item, edestination, allow users to choose and organise destinations via the Lexus website and send them wirelessly to vehicles.
Special easy-use voice command software is also included on some models.
Lexus Insider, standard on Lexus Enform navigation-equipped vehicles, will offer customised 'hot topic' audio programmes sent regularly to vehicles and, yes, there is an opt-out option.
Topics will include vehicle technology, regional owner events, customer magazine lifestyle stories and destination suggestions, with map data ready for the navigation system.
Lexus Enform will also come with three-month free trials of XM satellite radio services including traffic and weather.