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How Would You Put Toyota's Tech to Use for the Greater Good?

It's fair to say that Toyota's Prius changed the market for hybrid cars. (Of course, a stretch of $4-per-gallon gasoline didn't hurt, either.) Now, the company aims to apply the technology used in the Prius -- and four other innovations -- to improve the quality of life outside of drive time.

Toyota's "Ideas for Good" Initiatives, as they're calling it, opened to the public this week, and submissions will be accepted through February 28, 2011. At that point, a panel of judges will choose the best ideas and the winners will get a chance to bring their ideas to life.

"We're sharing a side of Toyota that many are not aware of and engaging the public in a way we've never done before," Bill Fay, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor Sales, said in a statement. "We're shining a light on some of our revolutionary technologies, which have been used to improve people's quality of life, in order to encourage the public to help us identify the next big 'idea for good.'"

The five technologies that Toyota is hoping to apply to the greater good are:

Total HUman Model for Safety (THUMS) An advanced injury-simulation software that measures more than the conventional crash test dummy can.

Hybrid Synergy Drive® (HSD) HSD converts braking energy into electricity. The hybrid system helps lower emissions while raising mpg.

Solar Powered Ventilation System The Toyota Prius offers this system that helps keep the interior air temperature near the outside ambient temperature, when the vehicle is parked in direct sun.

Touch Tracer Display An advanced touch-activated display system that allows drivers to control music, temperature and other features from the steering wheel without taking their eyes off the road. Touch Tracer is the first display system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel.

Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) Available on the Toyota Prius, this system utilizes ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers to detect open parking spaces and helps guide the car into those spaces with only soft driver braking.

Examples of how these technologies are already being put to work outside of Toyota's factories include the use of THUMS by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which is applying injury-simulation software to study how football players get injured on the field.

More details about the program, as well as the form to submit your Ideas for Good, are online at YourIdeasforGood.com.

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