Microsoft’s approach to the future of cars

Picture this: cars talking to other cars, alerting drivers, exchanging data, getting traffic updates by talking to sensors on the stoplights, communicating with your house or office, acting like your very own personal digital assistant.

No, we’re not talking about The Knight Rider TV Series. Remember KITT, right? You know, that super-powered, artificially intelligent, bulletproof and fireproof, talking Pontiac who helped a lone crime fighter in his battle against the forces of evil.

Instead, we’re bringing into the spotlight the development of Connected Cars – The Ultimate Internet-Cars and Microsoft’s hungry bite from the business.

The Rise of Connected Cars

Connectivity is the master of today’s world and this also goes for cars. Connected cars are the ultimate means of transportation which will surely change our lives for good. They’ll improve the driver’s safety and, at the same time, connect the car’s interior with the outside world. All these sums up the best possible driving experience.

Meet some of the features of connected cars:

  • Internet access and wireless local area network;
  • Safety alerts;
  • Speeding notifications;
  • Imminent crash notifications;
  • Special apps alerting the driver to arrive on time;
  • Sending text message alerts to friends/associates;
  • Roadside and navigation assistance;
  • Audio/music playing;
  • Voice commands and contextual offers/help;
  • Engine control;
  • Car diagnosis.

Connected cars, especially electric ones, are taking more and more advantage of the smartphones’ rapid evolution, and some apps are also available to interact with the car from any distance. You can unlock it, find its location, check the battery status, or even remotely turn on/off the climate control systems.

Microsoft’s Approach

microsoft and toyota

The tech giant Microsoft announced a deal with Toyota, agreeing to license its patents for connected cars. The moment is important because it marks Microsoft’s first deal of this kind with an automaker, and also a possible hint that there’s more to come.

Microsoft holds a treasure chest filled with patents including Wi-Fi, operating systems for cars, voice recognition feature, motion sensors, and navigation. These days, cars seem to be rapidly transcending their condition, morphing into sci-fi-like gadgets on wheels. Microsoft didn’t waste any precious time and grabbed the opportunity of being a part of this transition. More tech companies like Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and NXP did the same thing.

Microsoft’s executive vice president of business development, Peggy Johnson, finds a software challenge in this whole connected cars business which represents a huge opportunity for the future of automobile industry.

Microsoft patents for connected cars involve file transfer and storing tools, AI, and cybersecurity. The company wants to lead future driving on a path that becomes more and more personalized. In other words, it wants to morph your car into your very own MVP.

Obstacles and Customers’ Concerns

Autonomous driving is approaching pretty fast, but are we ready to accept and engage with this latest hi-tech automotive infrastructure?

The main concerns potential buyers revolve around costs, data privacy and the possibility of hacking.

Most people are still reluctant to use car-related connected services because of the privacy issue. Another obstacle which prevents the ultimate breakthrough of connected cars is paying extra for embedded connectivity. Therefore customers prefer to use their own smartphones as solutions to all their connectivity needs.

Some industry players are choosing the smartphone integration as an effort to satisfy the customers’ demand for connectivity. The connected cars’ manufacturers will have to face some tough decisions in the future regarding these obstacles and customer concerns.

microsoft future cars

Don’t Fight the Future: V2V Communication is Here

Microsoft predicts an exponential demand for services related to connected cars. Forecasts are already showing considerable increases: from 6.9 million cars equipped with data connectivity per year in 2015 to 61 million in 2020. Predictions show that the total cumulative shipments of connected cars will reach the impressive amount of 250 million by 2020.

Throughout the years, Microsoft has worked with Harman, BMW, Nissan, Ford and Volvo, but Toyota is the first automaker that gets access to Microsoft’s progressed auto-related services. This licensing agreement follows an earlier deal with Toyota from 2016 to build Toyota Connect – a data analytics company that focuses on bringing high tech Internet-connected services to cars without the risks of overwhelming the drivers and drown them in complicated technology.

The company makes use of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service for crunching data and developing products for business, drivers, and dealers. Toyota Connect is Toyota’s very own science hub, conducting complex research on robotics and AI.

Augmented with intelligent services and systems, connected cars will someday help cities/states with smarter traffic management, also improving safety. On the roads, cars will communicate with each other, automatically collecting a massive amount of data from a huge variety of sources and then transmitting it (position, speed, direction, sending alerts in case of an imminent crash).

The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning on starting to take steps in order to enable the V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication. Future goals also include increased energy-efficiency.

The auto industry is in for a massive, intelligent and fantastic evolution, so buckle up and stay tuned for more.

Remember when you used to laugh watching The Jetsons, as a kid, or when you immersed yourself in the sci-fi noir world of Blade Runner, wondering, among others, about how the future possibilities of transportation might really look like? It seems that we’ve all lived to see it with our own eyes: the real future conquered imagination and exceeded our childhood dreams.

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