Microsoft to Produce Telematics System for Toyota

Toyota and Microsoft this week announced a partnership that will expand Microsoft’s penetration in automotive telematics, while providing Toyota with on-board communication, control and entertainment electronics. While this marks the first time the two companies have joined forces to develop in-car systems, they have worked together for more than 10 years on a mobile Internet project for Japan.

Microsoft helped produce Ford’s Sync system, a software package that provides voice- and touch-activated functions, including hands-free calling, turn-by-turn directions and information services. Ford’s exclusive arrangement with Microsoft expired in November 2008, and the software company subsequently partnered with Kia to develop an infotainment system for the 2011 Kia Sorrento called Your Voice.

According to a Toyota news release, the automaker’s new telematics software will offer voice- and touch-activated communication, entertainment features and battery-charging management for electric and hybrid vehicles. The system is based on the Windows Azure operating system.

At a news conference, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, said, “Together, utilizing Windows Azure and Microsoft’s vast information infrastructure, we will boost the value of automobiles by making them ‘information terminals,’ moving beyond today’s GPS navigation and wireless safety communications, while at the same time enhancing driver and traffic safety.”

Mr. Toyoda said the system would use virtual operators and voice recognition.

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