Cloud

Microsoft unveils connected car strategy at CES 2017: 'Cloud will do the heavy lifting'

The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform will allow automakers to build the company's productivity tools into cars, including Cortana, Office 365, and Skype for Business.

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Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is furthering its connected car efforts, unveiling its Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Thursday. The platform is built on the Microsoft Azure cloud, and allows car manufacturers to more easily develop "custom connected driving experiences," according to a Microsoft blog post.

Since the platform is based in the cloud, it is a living system that allows automakers to address five core tenets of connected driving:

  1. Predictive maintenance
  2. Improved in-car productivity
  3. Advanced navigation
  4. Customer insights
  5. Help building autonomous driving capabilities

To achieve these goals, "Microsoft's cloud will do the heavy lifting by ingesting huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, and then helping automakers apply that data in powerful ways," according to the post.

The platform allows automakers to leverage Microsoft's virtual assistants, business applications, and office services, the post said. It will also help integrate productivity tools such as Cortana, Office 365, and Skype for Business into vehicles.

SEE: CES 2017 Special Coverage (CNET) | CES 2017 (TechRepublic) | CES 2017: The Big Trends for Business (ZDNet)

"People are looking to have truly connected experiences in their cars so that they can get more done, save time and make life easier," the post stated. "While safety and security are baseline requirements, our services can help make a person's work day more efficient."

The platform could help create vehicles that are a boon to business users. The blog post gives the following example: Say you are at home and use your phone to tell Cortana to set up a meeting with a colleague the next morning at a coffee shop. When you get into your car that morning, the vehicle's Cortana will remind you about the meeting, and start navigating you to the coffee shop.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the first manufacturer to sign on to build cars with the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, and plans to build connected vehicles with "advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring of car features and more," according to the post. The Azure-based platform will also allow Renault-Nissan to deploy services to both of their brands, as it supports vehicles that run on different operating systems and programming languages.

Microsoft is not entirely new to the connected cars game: The company announced a number of partnerships with automakers at CES 2016.

Just last month, Microsoft announced a partnership with Volvo to integrate Skype for Business in Volvo's 90 Series cars, allowing users to join conference calls from the road. In March 2016, Microsoft and BMW debuted the BMW Connected personal mobility companion service that includes a personal assistant for drivers and in-car productivity tools via Office 365. And, in September 2016, Microsoft and Toyota announced a collaboration with Toyota to expand the carmaker's abilities in data center management and data science, as TechRepublic's Conner Forrest reported.

Microsoft made their overall connected vehicle strategy clear: "As you may have gathered, Microsoft is not building its own connected car," the post stated. "Instead, we want to help automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brands, address their customers' unique needs, competitively differentiate their products and generate new and sustainable revenue streams."

Microsoft noted that its Azure cloud offers more than 200 services, and features strong security measures and privacy regulations needed for connected cars. This way, car manufacturers don't have to worry about building their own platform, and can instead work solely on creating the most innovative vehicles of the future, the post said.

"Ultimately, Microsoft aspires to empower automakers in their goals for fully autonomous driving, with sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, as well as advanced mapping services," the post stated. The company also recently announced a project with TomTom, HERE, and Esri to create more intelligent location-based services.

CES 2017 saw a number of connected car announcements, including Ford's plans to bring Amazon Alexa and high speed Wi-Fi to its new vehicles.

The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform will be available as a public preview in 2017.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. At CES 2017, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, which will allow automakers to integrate services such as Cortana, Office 365, and Skype for Business into cars.
  2. Nissan-Renault will be the first manufacturer to use Microsoft's platform to build new cars. The company has also partnered with Volvo, BMW, and Toyota on connected car efforts in the past year.
  3. Microsoft stated that it did not have plans to build its own connected car, but rather that it wants to help manufacturers reach goals of autonomous driving.

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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