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A network in your car?

——- http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020828/wr_nm/ autos_toyota_internet_dc_1

Toyota Unveils New Car Internet Network Wed Aug 28, 5:46 AM ET

By Edwina Gibbs

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp unveiled on Wednesday a second-generation car Internet network which offers a wide range of interactive ( news – external web site) services from downloading music and playing games to e-mail and e-commerce.

Japan’s largest automaker said its new network, called “G-Book,” had advanced in leaps and bounds from its current service “Monet,” which had primarily offered basic information and car navigation services.

Unlike its predecessor and other conventional car-Net services offered by Japanese automakers, “G-Book” does not require a cell phone to connect, using instead a data communication module.

That allows Toyota to offer a flat-fee service, meaning subscribers do not have to worry about log-on time costs.

In addition to the terminal on the dashboard, the network will also be accessible from cell phones, personal computers and personal digital assistants.

The automaker declined to disclose how much it would be charging for the new services or the amount it had and would be investing to develop the network.

“We are aiming for it to be a very affordable service,” managing director Akio Toyoda told a news conference. He added that more would be revealed when the automaker releases its first model with the terminal this autumn.

He emphasized that the network in itself was not necessarily intended to be profitable but rather that Toyota saw it as part of a natural development in the business of selling cars.

BUT WILL IT SELL?

Despite the technical advancements and greater range of features, Toyota is expected to have a tough time convincing Japanese consumers they need the network. Many of the services are already available on cell phones and its current service “Monet” never got far off the ground. Toyoda said around half of Toyota’s passenger car drivers used some kind of car navigation service and that he hoped around 30 to 40 percent of them would eventually become subscribers of “G-Book.”

Other features offered by “G-Book” include driver assistance if the car breaks down, with Toyota setting up a new call center. It also offers navigation and information services, with the terminal able to read out customized news such as stock market updates and offer restaurant information near where the car is been driven.

Information such as navigational maps, basic software, music and games can be stored in small secure digital cards. New information can be downloaded from Toyota’s stand-alone terminals installed at convenience stores and gas stations.

In the future, drivers will also be able to control home appliances from their vehicles, for example turning on the air conditioner shortly before arriving home.

The G-Book will be installed as a standard feature in the first vehicle released in autumn. In subsequent models it will either be standard, or an option depending on the car.

The network will be, at least for the time being, a Japan-only service.

“Japan digital technology is two to three years ahead of the rest of the world and it’s only in Japan that we have 40 percent of the market. In other countries, it’s not clear whether firms would be so willing to develop content for us,” he said.

Toyota has an agreement with General Motors Corp to look at offering its Internet services on the U.S. automaker’s cars in Japan, and the two firms are still considering the move.

Rival Honda Motor Co will also be unveiling a new Internet and navigation service on Thursday.

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