Toyota executives face Congressional questioning, Telmap launches location-based social networking, and more …

Toyota executives face Congressional questioning, Telmap launches location-based social networking, and more …

“We need to be vigilant and continue to investigate all the complaints of the consumers,” James Lentz III, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. told members of the House.

Although Lentz promised that Toyota was doing everything in its power to fix the various problems plaguing its cars, he acknowledged that the recalls might “not totally” solve its faulty accelerator pedals and brake pads. Some industry experts believe the problem is linked to a glitch in Toyota’s new regenerative braking system software, which in certain scenarios causes a lag before brakes engage.

While Toyota has rebuffed those claims, House energy committee chairman Henry Waxman told Lentz, “We need to be sure that you’re doing a full and adequate analysis of something you’ve denied, but that other witnesses have shown us is very possible.”

Toyota president Akio Toyoda testified before a second House committee session Wednesday, and a Senate committee will further investigate the recalls in the coming week.

Fiat’s eco:Drive Fleet

Fiat released a new version of eco:Drive specifically for company car fleets; eco:Drive Fleet helps company’s measure the mileage data of its vehicles to optimize fuel consumption, allowing for savings of up to 15 percent, Fiat says. Additionally, the system gives drivers instructions on how to become an “eco-driver;” relays data about drivers and vehicles to a central database, which it updates automatically; and evaluates driving behavior. Fiat partnered with Blue&Me to create the system and received software input from Bosch and Eni, both of which plan to start using the system this year.

Locate Mobiles

Locate Mobiles launched a new suite of personal mobile GPS location tracing products. The products include a watch, a PC pen, and a rechargeable GPS matchbox. The GPS Pen and GPS Matchbox are intended for fleet tracking businesses. The Pen records all vehicle movements on an internal memory chip, similar to an aircraft black box recorder, and its software can be automatically downloaded to a PC. The Matchbox runs off rechargeable batteries and is intended for covert surveillance, while the watch is meant for personal use—for the elderly, parents trying to keep an eye on children, people traveling abroad. When users call the sim card in the GPS watch, they receive a text message back with the watch’s exact location.

Topcon Precision Agriculture

Topcon unveiled a new autosteering application, the System 250. The system is designed for a range of off-road and farming vehicles and provides parallel autosteering operations. Additionally, its X20 console manages every facet of the agricultural system, from spraying and seeding to spreading, fertilizing, and autosection control. System 250 also includes the new CropSpec crop canopy sensor.

Honda’s hybrid gambit

Honda has started work on a new large car hybrid system, setting up a potential race to market with other automakers embracing the concept, like GM. Honda’s large hybrid sedan will be the next generation of IMA drivetrain and will be considerably larger than Honda’s CR-Z, Insight, and Civic Hybrid. The hybrid sedan is a risk for Honda. The company’s last stab at a large hybrid, the Accord Hybrid, flamed out and was dropped in 2007 after just two years on the market.

Google on defense

A judge in Italy convicted three Google executives of breaking privacy laws for failing to remove a video of bullies at a school in Turin beating an autistic boy. The video reached the top of the most-watched list of Google Video in 2006. The ruling, which convicts Google’s global privacy counsel, its senior-vice president, and former chief financial officer to a six-month suspended sentence, could have far-reaching effects on press freedom in Italy. Meanwhile three European Web companies have filed complaints with the European Commission that their websites were unfairly demoted on Google search.

Telmap’s LBS Social Media

Telmap has partnered with GyPSii to incorporate advanced location-based social networking into Telmap’s Mobile Location Companion, Telmap5. Telmap will use GyPSii’s Open API, OpenExperience, to allow its users to add location-aware content to their social networks. Telmap5 users will be able to geo-blog, locate friends and events, upload location-specific videos and pictures, and share locations. GyPSii and Telmap gave attendees of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a sneak preview of their joint venture last week.

Andrew Tolve is a technology writer and regular contributor to TU.

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