There’s an old joke that has Bill Gates boasting that if General Motors were as advanced as the computer industry, “we’d all be driving cars with V32 engines that got 1000 miles to the gallon”.
The 1990s-era joke then has former GM boss Jack Smith retort with the idea that a Microsoft-inspired car would crash twice a day and the airbag would ask ‘are you sure?’ before activating.
Luckily, that joke was proved false by that legendary destroyer of fun urban myths, Snopes – because Microsoft will soon partner with the Renault Nissan Alliance on next-generation ‘connected car‘ technology.
Powered by Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure platform, the new technologies will focus on “advanced navigation, predictive maintenance and vehicle centric services, remote monitoring of car features, external mobile experiences and over-the-air updates”.
Importantly, much of the technology will be developed by Renault Nissan, using the Azure platform specifically as a means of distributing data – such as infotainment and Tesla-like over-the-air software updates.
“A car is becoming increasingly connected, intelligent and personal,” Renault Nissan Alliance senior vice president Ogi Redzic said. “Partnering with Microsoft allows us to accelerate the development of the associated key technologies needed to enable scenarios our customers want and build all-new ones they haven’t even imagined.
“We aim to become the provider of connected mobility for everyone with one single global platform.”
As autonomous driving technology draws closer to day-to-day reality, the platform will also be used to help cars communicate about changes in traffic, road, and weather conditions, while integrating in-car productivity tools with the software packages used at home and work. (Don’t be surprised to learn that Apple’s automotive plans follow a similar path.)
Above: Nissan’s Leaf Piloted Drive prototype, revealed last year
The partnership will also cater to the secure personalisation and transfer of preferences and settings, allowing commuters to customise and load their own digital environments in shared vehicles.
Together, Renault and Nissan plan to launch 10 vehicles by 2020 with varying levels of autonomous driving capability.
This is not Microsoft’s first foray into the automotive world, of course, with the company having previously worked with Ford on its Sync infotainment system.