Aerial view of freeway interchange in downtown Singapore.

For businesses across the automotive, mobility, and transportation industry, sustainability is no longer a business priority—it is a responsibility. A World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) publication noted that while 75 percent of all global CO2 emissions are generated by cities, up to 40 percent of these emissions come from urban freight—a key target area where electrification, autonomous, and advanced mobility solutions can help improve. As the world faces an urgent need to reduce its carbon consumption, the industry is faced with the challenge of adapting to today’s complex realities while keeping pace with vehicle innovation. Harnessing data capabilities, supporting the development of electric models and associated infrastructure, and enabling the creation of smart mobility solutions will be key factors in working towards a cleaner, more eco-centric future.  

As Microsoft remains committed to reaching its sustainability goals of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, we are also committed to enabling other companies and organizations around the world to reach theirs. In that vein, Microsoft recently announced the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability—an extensible software-as-a-service solution that helps you record, report, and reduce your organization’s environmental impact through automated data connections and actionable insights. Etihad, for example, is partnering with Microsoft to measure and benchmark their environmental footprint, allowing them to implement and assess carbon efficiency savings across its business operations. For the Automotive, Mobility, and Transportation Industry, the Cloud for Sustainability means innovative technology solutions offering intelligent insights so organizations can focus on reducing their carbon footprint. This can in turn open organizations up to taking their data-driven transformation further, minimizing traffic and accidents, and deliver a seamless passenger experience.

We are also proud to partner with WBCSD to explore innovative solutions for a safe and sustainable future by helping companies and organizations around the globe make a tangible impact on global corporate sustainability. Microsoft participated in a virtual panel hosted by WBCSD during this year’s COP26, discussing challenges currently impeding mobility decarbonization, and supported the release of the Value Framework on Sustainable Charging Infrastructure. The framework will be critical to promote sustainability and financial incentives for companies to connect charging and smart grid technologies across the EV value chain. Microsoft is also actively supporting WBCSD in their latest initiative to forge a data coalition for sustainable urban mobility, goaled with reducing mobility emissions in line with Paris Agreement climate goals, by leveraging mobility digitalization and data sharing to increase transportation efficiencies, reduce costs and accelerate EV adoption.

Standardizing data sharing

As Brad Smith mentioned in his recap of Microsoft at COP26; the world’s path to net-zero depends on reliable and consistent measurement. Open and equitable data sharing is critical in tackling challenges across the automotive and mobility value chain. With that being said, providing the optimal level of access and control is key for transparency, and many businesses are still hesitant to trust providers with their data. It is critical to start feeling comfortable with sharing data to help address inefficiencies in terms of sustainability. Sharing of high-quality, near-time data can create significantly more optimal usage of available energy, and companies can use that to drive efficiencies across the value chain. To meet this challenge and build trust, create openness and instill confidence to share information, organizations need a framework that leverages a multi-tenant architecture scale and protects neutral privacy rights.

Achieving a framework that drives sustainable mobility requires substantial changes in behavior, systems, and policy. Data will enable stakeholders to access real-time information and influence change through pricing, government regulation, and social values encoded in community and individual practices. At Microsoft, we are working with suppliers to implement environmentally responsible practices through the use of Microsoft technologies, such as Azure Data Share and Azure Purview to measure and share sustainability data across operations. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation’s Truckonnect uses Azure Data Explorer to boost performance, reduce complexity and cost, and ultimately help their customers—and society—be safer and more environmentally friendly.

We are pleased to work with customers like Arrival and ZF to help develop their open data and cloud platforms. Using the power of Azure and machine learning, Arrival is creating an open data platform to extract insights from the data and edge computing for vehicle-to-cloud data flow. Arrival is creating a unified, canonical data standard and transparent data sharing policy that will enable insights to improve vehicle designs, advance fleet logistics, and help spur advancements in mobility ecosystems and business models.

Most recently, we are proud to work with ZF to facilitate the creation of the ZF Cloud, digitalizing all industrial and operational production and business processes on Azure. By leveraging Microsoft’s comprehensive set of cloud, AI, IoT, and data technologies, ZF is transforming into a cloud-centric mobility service provider that delivers sustainable, safe, convenient, and affordable mobility solutions to its customers.

Converting to electric models and smart mobility solutions 

Vehicle electrification is a priority for road transport decarbonization. According to WBCSD, light-duty electric vehicle (EV) sales saw 43 percent growth in 2020 despite a declining automobile market. Technology is playing an integral role in managing growth and new infrastructure. We are seeing a shift in the automotive industry from individual hardware manufacturing to software solutions collaboration. In the development of EVs, this is critical. To enable developers to innovate and create great user experiences and applications, we must work towards a Software-Defined Vehicles future.

Microsoft’s capabilities on Azure present a powerful connectivity platform that can leverage data to deliver on-demand solutions: frictionless commerce, vehicle-to-everything communications, refreshed policymaking, enhanced energy solutions through Vehicle-to-Home, Vehicle-to-Grid, and raised productivity. A great example of this includes General Motors and Cruise, who teamed up with Microsoft earlier this year to leverage Azure to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles.

Mobility services will be a major catalyst for the development of advanced IoT capabilities that make it possible to securely transmit data in complex environments across edge devices such as vehicles, phones, traffic lights, or charging stations. Cars in development today will play a critical role in an increasingly decentralized smart city ecosystem. Wejo is partnering with Microsoft to build a suite of data and intelligence solutions including traffic and insurance solutions, remote diagnostics, integrated payments, advertising, and logistics.

The Eclipse Foundation recently partnered with Microsoft, Bosch, and other industry leaders to define a working group focused on the Software-Defined Vehicle. The partnership highlights how the industry is taking advantage of the collaboration of the entire ecosystem as the architecture evolves.

Fast build-out of smart and inclusive charging infrastructure

By 2050, two in three people will be living in urban environments, and according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario, the world will require more than 200 million charging points by 2030. The rapid development of sustainable and inclusive charging infrastructure currently represents a major gap for most of the actors involved. The smart mobility industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, and to nurture this growth responsibly, it is imperative to closely manage, monitor, and optimize grid stability, energy supply, and charging sessions. Cities will require mobility and energy solutions that are integrated with customer-centric infrastructure and services. Thus, the convergence of energy and mobility is critical.

By working together with partners and customers, we are able to leverage intelligent technology to help balance the power grid and sustain business growth. Clever, for example, is partnering with Microsoft to develop an expansive network of user-centered charging stations along highways and in cities, shopping centers, workplaces, and homes. Clever is not only simplifying EV adoption in Denmark but also optimizing how and when energy is used.

At Microsoft, we are bringing technologies, platforms, and solutions to customers and partners around the world in order to accelerate their own sustainability initiatives. By committing to reducing our own emissions, fostering a common carbon language, developing effective carbon accounting, and helping customers reduce their carbon emissions—we are excited to be working towards creating a greener future.

Learn more about our approach to sustainability at Microsoft.