Talking to Electric Vehicles

Do you remember the show Knight Rider, featuring David Hasselfhoff and KITT, the smooth-talking Trans Am, that aired back in the early ‘80s?

I remember going over to my friend Art’s house and finding his dad glued to the TV set every Friday night watching what I thought was a lame show. But maybe it wasn’t so lame, after all. Turns out that Mr. Hasselhoff and the folks at NBC were ahead of their time.

According to news reports, Toyota is developing a social network called “Toyota Friend” with the help of Microsoft and a San Francisco-based Internet company so that drivers can interact with their cars via tweets.

During the May launch of the program in Toyko, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid received a message from his car reminding him to recharge it overnight. When he plugged the car in, it told him when the charge would be complete and then replied: “See you tomorrow.” Sounds like something KITT would have said to The Hoff.

These human-car interactions can be kept private or shared via Facebook or Twitter, according to the story.

We can certainly see the benefit of this communication. The car could tell you where to get a charge if your battery was running low or simply tell you where to park. Utilities could tell the customer the ideal time to charge the vehicle based on system cost and peak energy loads. The “Toyota Friend” network will also allow the car to communicate with the dealership or a mechanic if maintenance is needed. The car will even set up an appointment.

The “Toyota Friend” service is scheduled to begin in Japan in 2012 and then spread around the world later.

“I hope cars can become friends with their users, and customers will see Toyota as a friend,” said Akio Toyoda, the company president. Toyota is ponying up 442 million yen (or $5.5 million) to make sure the network becomes a reality. Meanwhile, Microsoft is investing $4.1 million and the San Francisco Internet company,, is putting $2.8 million into the project.

Here’s hoping the project is a great success. Perhaps, the network will become so good it will be able to warn all of your friends of big potholes on the drive home from work.

Article by Dan Hauser, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

Skip to toolbar