Is driving the car the best time to engage in social media? Probably not, but what if the car helped with these tasks, reducing the "need" for mobile device use while driving? Would a car that's social media savvy appeal to today's drivers?
That's what Toyota wants to find out, and thanks to their partnership with Salesforce.com, consumers will be able to find out, as well. The partnership was made to power the "Toyota Friend" program, a social network designed to engage other Toyota drivers/owners. According to the release, Toyota Friend is a social network that connects Toyota owners to their car, the dealership, and with the Toyota company, providing things like maintenance tips and other service-related information. An example used in the announcement introduces the concept of Toyota Friend informing hybrid owners if their battery isn't sufficiently charged.
Powered by the Salesforce Chatter network, which is described as a "private social network for business," Toyota Friend will issue "tweet-like" notifications to the owner's mobile device, which seems to ignore the elephant in the room. Aren't we in a time of informing people about the dangers involved in mobile device use during vehicular operation? Doesn't such a service bring the temptation of driving while playing with a mobile device? Questions for another day, I suppose.
While the Toyota Friend social network will be a private one, members can connect to their friends on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook, an idea that seems to court the potentially deadly combination of mobile device use while operating a vehicle even further. Killjoy reactions aside, Toyota President Akio Toyoda likes where the partnership is going:
"Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today is an important step forward in achieving that goal."
Unfortunately, it's doubtful Mark Schaefer will approve of this latest social network capability. How about you? Does the idea of a socially-networked vehicle, one that let's you connect with other social networks, appeal to you? Could you see yourself driving a socially networked vehicle, one that issues messages about the condition of your car? As for the service, will you be able to "friend" other Toyota drivers you see out and about? Something like, "hey, did you see that babe in the Camry? Send her a friend request, dude!"
If so, Toyota Friend's potential just increased a great deal.
The service is scheduled to debut in 2012, and will be initially offered in Japan to hybrid and electrical Toyota owners.