Toyota Australia's new FollowMe aftermarket unit is an in-dash navigation and audio combination developed by Netherlands-based TomTom. It is similar to a double-DIN unit developed for Toyota Motor Europe and launched here last year.

In car, the unit allows simultaneous and seamless operation of navigation, communication and entertainment features and the 'FollowMe' navigator section functions as a standalone portable unit when removed from the dashboard dock enabling it to be used in other vehicles and by pedestrians. Its removal from the vehicle also helps prevent theft, Toyota said.

The unit can receive regular updates from Australia's domestic Suna traffic monitoring services.

Other features include a hands-free link to Bluetooth-compatible phones. The device can also 'speak' incoming text messages.

Voice recognition software allows users to speak destination names, helping to minimise driver distraction.

A 10.9cm touch screen is used for most functions.

Toyota Australia's 'FollowMe' unit also connects to a rear view camera the company offers as an aftermarket option.

The unit can play CDs and DVDs plus MP3/iPod, iPhone and WMA files and has video and photo capability.

The motorised tilting front panel can be adjusted by up to 30 degrees to reduce sun glare, and hides the CD slot.

An iPod connection kit enables music and video selections to be seen and controlled via the display.

When the nav unit is removed, CD and radio can still be played, and hands-free communication remains available.

The 'HelpMe' feature (recently added to European TomTom navigators as well) provides useful information including a 'Where am I?' location finder, first aid advice and breakdown instructions.

Navigation accuracy is enhanced via a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer that calculates vehicle speed and direction, even in tunnels where satellite signals generally drop out.

Navigation maps are stored in the portable section of FollowMe, and can be updated on TomTom's website.

Consumer and industrial electronics maker Sanyo Electric last month said it was moving into the integrated vehicle navigation business in Europe and North America, having agreed on cooperation with TomTom.

Sanyo said both companies were talking with carmakers and developing new models for release by the end of 2010.

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