Toyota telematics coming Down Under

Drivers can integrate their smart phone to their car and listen to internet radio or check traffic while on the go from early 2013

Australian's may have to wait until 2015 to get their first taste of a plug-in Prius but one Toyota technology that is set to come here next year is the Japanese giant's smartphone telematics system, Entune.

Toyota Australia's product planning chief, Greg Gardner, revealed to that from early 2013 the company will begin offering its car-to-smartphone integration software on select vehicles.

"We'll be adopting [Entune] in Australia in 2013. It uses the smartphone for various functions, and with our hybrid vehicles and our electric vehicles you can monitor the state of the battery and where the nearest charge point is," Mr Gardner said.

Though Toyota hasn't confirmed which vehicles will be compatible with Entune at its local launch in next year, the company hinted that it may not necessarily be the technology flagship, Prius.

The Entune system allows users to download an App for their smartphone and then sync with the car's infotainment touch-screen and voice control systems. Thus drivers can complete tasks such as checking traffic, finding movie sessions or the location of a pharmacy while on the move. (See the video below for an overview of Entune.)

The scope of telematics systems is vast and some manufacturers in the USA even allow owners to start their cars remotely, but such features will not be offered in Australia due to local laws. Toyota's Entune system may also clash with Australian law that prohibits driver distraction via infotainment systems.

"Some competitors have had to delay the introduction of telematics connectivity in their cars because of that [local regulations]," stated Mr Gardner.

"So we're working towards something that will comply with regulations for driving distractions in our standards and offering initially a small number of applications and then expanding those out as more and more become available and we should start doing that from early next year."

Toyota Australia says it plans to have Entune integrated with every model in its range, but hasn't set a time frame for the roll out.