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We’ve been talking for some time now about the impact and benefits of digital transformation on the automotive industry and the smart city. From electric to connected to autonomous, the car has now become an integral part of the broader IoT landscape when it comes to building empowered societies. Anywhere there is a ‘connected signal’ to the cloud means increased efficiencies, savings and smarter processes—enabling new opportunities for our societies by linking the car to smart homes, to other smart cars, and to smart city infrastructures.

The need couldn’t be more critical, as we watch our cities grow exponentially. With more people comes more cars on our roads, more pedestrians on our sidewalks and more demand on our public services. Today, cities and cars are not sharing data. It is vital that we are building an integrated ecosystem that connects our cities and infrastructures with our cars. Electric cars that reduce carbon emissions to make the smart city more sustainable. Autonomous and connected vehicles that talk to roads, traffic lights and street signs to make our commute time more efficient, as well as anticipate pedestrians and other cars to avoid accidents and make the smart city safer.

Enabling the connected ecosystem

A natural place to start connecting these digital dots is location. We are building more value in our Azure public cloud to help support the geographical data needed to power smart cities. We just announced a new public preview of Azure Location-based Services (LBS), a set of cloud capabilities that provide geographical data to power smart cities, infrastructure and IoT solutions that empower industrial transformation.

Azure LBS provides an enterprise-ready location service for customers to build mobility, asset tracking and other geospatial applications that provide useful insights through one dashboard. As our first official partner on the platform, TomTom’s API will seamlessly connect smart cities, smart infrastructures and smart vehicles. Azure LBS customers are guaranteed trusted location data through TomTom’s unique feedback loop ecosystem – a global community of users continually providing map and traffic data resulting in richer content and more trustworthy data.

Connected vehicles

Empowering the automotive industry to help accelerate this connected ecosystem is a priority for my team. We are focused on working with automakers and service providers to provide connected, productive and safe mobility experiences anywhere to the customer.

We started early on partnering with companies like Toyota to power the emerging needs of connected vehicles. We continue to build on that work to drive transformation and help automotive companies realize more value through connectivity and custom solutions. Daimler FleetBoard GmbH is a great example of a company that is using the power of the Microsoft cloud to support new digital products that will provide better availability, higher levels of flexibility and better economic efficiency for Daimler’s commercial fleet. Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation is also doing interesting work with us to digitalize its truck and logistics operations by leveraging AI, mixed reality, and other cutting-edge technologies. This allows Mitsubishi to enhance its customer relations and boost employee productivity.

Connecting the automotive ecosystem also requires being able to improve insights and engage customers across the vehicle ownership lifecycle. Tapping into a vehicle’s real-time telemetry data for things like predictive maintenance, vehicle diagnostics and vehicle analytics are all critical capabilities that help automakers accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Our partners including Bright Box and Moj.io provide a goldmine of data and insights for car manufacturers with their customizable connected car platform solutions, based on Microsoft technologies.

Some automakers themselves are even integrating their own solutions, such as the work that ICONIQ Motors is doing to provide predictive maintenance, vehicle diagnostics and analytics, and a voice assistant in its cars using Microsoft Azure.

Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are quickly emerging as a keystone for the smart city ecosystem. Analysis from the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, digital transformation and the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles will drive approximately $670 billion of industry value and nearly $3 trillion of societal value, with one million lives saved.

It will be key to make sure we as an industry are developing these vehicles in a safe, sustainable and scalable way. To that end, we are focused on providing cloud services for data, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies for things like object perception, navigation, simulation, testing, and continuous learning. An example of this is the new simulation tools we just released to test how autonomous vehicles can use AI to operate safely in the open world.

Smart mobility

The smart, connected ecosystem is also about having a smart mobility infrastructure that enables safety, convenience, and monetization opportunities. Microsoft believes this work needs to be done through trusted data sharing between vehicles, smart homes and buildings, smart cities, smart grid, public services, healthcare, and financial services entities. ABB’s electric vehicle charging stations offer a strong model of how a connected energy infrastructure can change how we think about our smart city infrastructures and transportation needs. As countries including France and the U.K. Norway, India and even China begin to implement bans on new gasoline vehicles, ABB is a pioneering leader in electrification products, providing up to 65 percent of fast charging stations in Europe.

Mass transit is another area undergoing a transformation in the smart mobility ecosystem. Our work with public sector companies including the Transport for London is helping to make things like contact payment in mass transit flawless.

As data-driven insights continue to be in great demand in the automotive industry, Otonomo is an innovative company that is building the world’s first connected vehicle data marketplace platform helping to bridge the gap between access, acquisition and integration of vehicle data. Cubic Telecom has built a proof of concept that uses aggregated (and anonymous) connectivity data to analyze the effectiveness of its charging station placements and suggest new charging locations based on network hotspots. And Fathym announced it will utilize Microsoft Azure Location Based Services to power its WeatherCloud forecasting solution that gives fleets and autonomous vehicles data for better routing around hazardous weather to improve ETA accuracy, cost savings and driver safety.

Microsoft will continue the momentum we have been driving to empower the automotive industry—and ultimately, our digital societies. Our digital solutions and new business models improve logistics, fleet management and public transportation; reduce urban traffic; and ensure connection with consumer cars vehicles all from a single, cloud-based ecosystem. We look forward to continuing to build new partnerships and deepen existing ones to bring these new capabilities to market quickly.


Twitter: @sanrav