Microsoft is not building its own connected car. Let’s just get it out of the way, right at the start, to give rest to any conjecture. Instead, Microsoft is doing what it does best, and has done since a young Bill Gates made software for personal computers – create a platform.
With the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, the company is helping automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brand positioning, address their customers’ needs, offer differentiated experiences, as well as generate new and sustainable revenue streams.
Connected cars are equipped with the necessary hardware and software to connect to the cloud, generate new and varied types of data that OEMs can use to derive actionable insight. From being a mode of transport between two points, the next-generation of cars will be fully connected, shared, autonomous, and personalized. According to the Connected Car Industry Report, 2014 by Telefónica, 90% of new cars will be connected by 2020. By the same year, 10% of drivers will give up ownership for on-demand access according to report by PSFK Labs released last year. But that’s just the start. According to McKinsey, by 2030, 15% of cars will be self-driving.
Last year, Microsoft announced a partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance extending its platform to power next-generation, connected vehicles with advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, and remote monitoring. Earlier this year, Tata Motors and Microsoft announced a strategic technology agreement with an aim to bring together artificial intelligence, advanced machine learning, and the Internet of Things capabilities to create a highly personalized, smart and safer driving experience across the digital life of a vehicle owner.
The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform consists of a comprehensive set of Microsoft services and products that span the physical (car) and digital (cloud). The platform is also architected to integrate with productivity tools like Microsoft Office 365, Cortana, and Skype for Business.
One of the highlights of the connected car experience is the integration with Cortana and how it enhances productivity on the move. I had a chance to go through a demo of the Cortana experience that would be available in next-generation TAMO cars. TAMO is the sub-brand of Tata Motors unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show last month that will act as an incubating center of innovation to define future mobility solutions.
Excuse the monotony of the following series of similar photos. These are photos of the demo on an external display. It is a series of prompts and actions by Cortana, based on driver's response.
Sit in the car, and Cortana would ask you whether you'd want to go to Office or Home.
Cortana will give you a traffic update, and give you an alternate route to reach your destination quicker. You can opt for that or continue with your usual route.
Because Cortana has access to the user's Office 365 account and/or Calendar, she'd prompt you for a call appointment and connect you via your mobile phone or Skype for Business, as is preferred.
Since Cortana has access to your emails via Office 365, she will alert you about new incoming emails.
She will read out the mails to you, and even help you reply to them via speech-to-text.
Of course, there are usual bells-and-whistles of Cortana, helping you with local recommendations, restaurant searches, and reminders, which are even more useful when you're out and about.