Microsoft Brings Web Tools to Toyota Hybrids

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has signed a deal with Toyota to put WiFi Internet access in electric and hybrid vehicles. But the services will be less about surfing the web and more about improving the driving experience.

The two companies plan to develop an electronics system for use in both all-electric and hybrid vehicles. The first vehicles to carry the system should be hybrid vehicles released next year, with a goal to have the system in all Toyota electronic vehicles worldwide by 2015.

To develop the system, the two companies have invested a combined one billion yen (approximately US $12 million) into Toyota Media Services, a subsidiary of the auto maker. (Source:

Smarter Power Use Means Longer Drives

The Internet connection will allow for some obvious tools, such as enhanced GPS navigation and multimedia entertainment for drivers and passengers.

It will also serve the car itself, automatically adjusting settings for features like air conditioning and heating, making them run more efficiently. That change in power use could make a dramatic difference in the distance an electric or hybrid vehicle can run before it needs a recharge.

Car Internet Access Means Remote Control Accessibility

Drivers will also be able to control some features in the vehicles remotely, through a smartphone or computer. This could include checking the battery level or switching on heating before leaving the house. Toyota's chief executive says this connection could eventually be reversed, meaning home heating or air conditioning automatically switches on as the car nears the house. (Source:

They'll also have the option to automatically set the car to charge at a particular time of the day; for example, if their energy provider has a special off-peak rate.

Cloud Computing Meets the Highway

The system will run on Windows Azure, Microsoft's online system for remote or "cloud" computing.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has been involved in automobile production. In fact, it currently has a system named Sync that is now installed in more than two million Ford cars.

Unlike the Toyota deal, Sync isn't specifically designed for electric vehicles. Instead, it's a way hook up phones or media players to the car and then control them either by voice command or buttons built into to the car dashboard or steering wheel.

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