Toyota Safety Connect and Lexus Enform Square Off with OnStar
The OnStar system has been one of the highest ranked reasons for buying a new GM vehicle. And although the technology is readily available, other companies have yet to begin incorporating the same features into their vehicles. That is until Toyota revealed Safety Connect to the world and put up some competition for OnStar.
When compared side by side, the systems are very similar. Toyota's system has four basic security features that can each act independently of the others. The most commonly used will likely be Roadside Assistance. Just as the names implies, this service will offer help if you are stranded on the side of the road due to a flat tire, breakdown or whatever else life might throw your way.
In the event that you do get into an accident, Automatic Collision Notification (ACN) can detect the deployment of an airbag or the impact of a high speed rear-ending. A signal is automatically sent via cellular signal to a response center and emergency services are dispatched.
The third feature is called Emergency Assistance, abbreviated as "SOS" on the button. In the event of a medical emergency or low speed accident that does not activate the ACN, the SOS button can be used to manually send out the signal for help. The button can also be used in lieu of the Roadside assistance button, but you will be transferred to the proper place once your call is answered.
The final is a familiar feature called Stolen Vehicle Location. It works very much like an aftermarket lo-Jack system in that the beacon can only activate once the police report is filed. Once armed, law enforcement can follow the signal to your vehicle and, in most cases, return it unscathed.
While this may seem like a sufficient amount of in car technology, for some people (me included), there is no such thing as enough. For us, Toyota has given their luxury brand even more in car gadgetry. Lexus models will receive the standard Safety Connect system, along with an in car concierge service called Enform.
Enform comes with two features, Destination Assist and eDestination. The first uses the vehicles GPS and a live operator to locate points of interest close by. Anything from fueling stations to a dry cleaner can be located with the touch of a button. The system will also include Zagat ratings so you will be able to locate the best dining around.
eDestination is a self service feature that allows Lexus owners to design their own trip routes and upload them to their navigation system wirelessly for later use. If you travel a lot, this will be especially useful as destinations and directions can be stored online for later use. Favorite locations can also be saved via internet and downloaded into the GPS when needed.
Another interesting feature of the Enform system is a voice recognition system that was designed specifically to make inputting commands easier and more expedient. The system will allow you to basically hold a conversation with your vehicle and have it perform specific functions for you. The key benefit of this system will be keeping the driver focused on the road, rather than trying to remember what command changed the radio station.
Both the Safety Connect and Enform systems can be found on some 2009 models, with the lineup expanding in 2010.