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Toyota motor vehicles powered by Microsoft?

The internet highway is about to get a major boost as Microsoft and Toyota Motor Corp. (TMC) announced on Wednesday that they would be working together to incorporate digital capabilities into the Japanese auto maker‘s vehicles.

The US$ million partnership will see telematics in Toyota’s upcoming hybrid vehicles infused with Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing system.

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The joint investment into a Toyota subsidiary is devoted to automotive digital information services which includes navigation, energy management, and other “smart” features in the next generation of Toyota vehicles.

“Today’s announcement… is a great example of how we continue to invest in the automotive industry and of our commitment to power the services that are important to consumers,” said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

“It further validates the power of the cloud, as the Windows Azure platform will provide the enterprise-grade, scalable platform that TMC needs to deliver telematics in its automobiles worldwide.”

This wouldn’t be a first for Microsoft’s engagement with the motor industry. The Ford Sync is also powered by Microsoft software and includes a number of features such as voice-over controls, mobile phone pairing, audio text messaging, GPS and media assistance features. Car makers worldwide have been adopting a definite push towards adding infotainment and other telematics services in vehicles to differentiate their cars from competitors.

Toyota cars tapping into computer services hosted by Microsoft in the Internet “cloud” were to be electric and plug-in hybrid models to hit roads next year.

Toyota expected to have a “complete global cloud platform” in place by 2015.

Toyota is conducting tests in Japan of a Smart Center intended to connect people, homes, and cars in an energy management system using Internet technologies.

“Creating these more efficient, more environmentally advanced products will be our contribution to society,” TMC president Akio Toyoda said in a release.

“To achieve this, it is important to develop a new link between vehicles, people and smart center energy-management systems.” –AFP

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