Microsoft Debuts Cloud-Based Connected Vehicle Platform

Renault-Nissan Alliance will be among the first automakers to bring Microsoft's Cortana and other Azure Cloud services to their connected cars.

Cortana Car Systems

In the near future, Cortana may remind drivers of an upcoming appointment, complete with GPS-aided directions on how to get there. That's one of many scenarios Microsoft wants to enable for cars that support the Redmond, Wash. company's newly-announced Connected Vehicle Platform.

Unveiled Jan. 5 during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the "Connected Vehicle Platform" allows carmakers to seamlessly integrate the vehicles with digital lives of their customers and deliver a set of experiences that are safe, productive and fun," said Sanjay Ravi, managing director of Microsoft's Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing division, in an introductory video.

Those experiences, as with many of the Microsoft's latest innovations, will be powered by the company's Azure Cloud software and services ecosystem.

Connected Vehicle Platform encompasses a set of Azure technologies that can work together to enable new intelligent services. For example, the system can alert a driver of an issue affecting a car's performance.

Taking matters a step further, it can schedule an appointment with a service center based on the availability of both the driver and the center's automotive technicians using Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant technology.

Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft, suggested the Connected Vehicle Platform won't be a rehash of the Sync infotainment system in past Ford vehicles.

"This is not an in-car operating system or a 'finished product.' It's a living, agile platform that starts with the cloud as the foundation and aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities," she said in a Jan. 5 announcement.

Microsoft's other cloud-enabled offerings also factor into the cloud services suite, which will be released as a public preview later this year. In addition to Cortana, the Connected Vehicle Platform will integrate with Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business.

The technology may first show up in future Nissans. During a keynote, the Japanese automaker said its partnership with Microsoft would be used in a next-generation of cars with predictive maintenance, advanced navigation and remote monitoring capabilities.

Echoing the multi-platform strategy Microsoft adopted to grow Azure in recent years, Johnson added that her company's connected vehicle systems suite will enable the Renault-Nissan Alliance to standardize on a single cloud platform for cars and devices running multiple operating systems and programming languages.

Separately, BMW showed off an in-car implementation of Cortana at CES. Future vehicles from the luxury performance brand may provide reminders of upcoming appointments and enable their drivers to issue Cortana voice commands to find a restaurant and reserve a table.

Just before the New Year, Volvo Cars announced it was adding Skype for Business to its 90 Series vehicles. The Swedish car manufacturer will allow drivers to access the app's calendar tools using the touch screen located in the center console and conduct calls through the vehicle's audio system.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...