NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor is expanding its cooperation with Microsoft in a push to bolster services involving Internet-connected automobiles.
Subsidiary Toyota Media Service has created Toyota Connected in the U.S. state of Texas at a capitalization of roughly $5.5 million, with Microsoft obtaining a 5% stake in the unit. Microsoft invested in Toyota Media Service in 2011.
Toyota Media Service's current businesses include distributing traffic information based on data collected from vehicles on the road. The Texas startup hopes to recruit data-analysis experts using the U.S. software giant's brand power. It plans to hire about 40 such specialists in 2017.
Toyota plans to expand the range of vehicles equipped with data communications functions. The company currently offers those capabilities only on Lexus-brand vehicles and a handful of other upmarket offerings. But "we will raise the proportion of models with data communications systems with the goal of making it a standard feature," said Masumi Nagai, general manager of the planning and administration department at the automaker's e-Toyota division.
Equipping all vehicles sold in Japan and the U.S. with data communications functions will increase annual sales of such vehicles to more than 4 million units.
Specific services to be offered by Toyota Connected are yet to be finalized, but they could include car insurance products that base the appropriate premium on how safely he or she drives.
In the area of telematics services, data from car-navigation systems and other sources will help make the information more relevant to the driving patterns of individual customers.