Microsoft Won't Stop At Smartphones, Wants to Make Smartcars

Feb 12, 2017 06:00 AM EST | BC Tabotabo

Microsoft wants to join the hype over autonomous vehicle development. However, they don't want to build the car; they want to focus on making it intelligent.

DesignCon 2017. Doug Seven is the Principal Group Program Manager of the Redmond-based tech giant's "Things That Move" division. During his keynote at DesignCon 2017, he discussed with the audience that he has met with several automotive execs about self-driving cars. Seven shared that during their meetings, they no longer talk about cars as machines but as "data centers on wheels."

Design News reported that Seven said that while there is a lot of pressure in the automotive industry to make autonomous vehicles, certain key innovations also have to be considered. His tech company believes that paramount among all of the innovations is the need for cars to become intelligent.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers must consider four forces - autonomous, connected, shared, and electric vehicles. The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform was first introduced during the CES 2017 in Las Vegas. It is a cloud-based platform designed to help automobile manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences.

The platform wants to help automakers build solutions in five key areas. These key areas are telematics and predictive maintenance, advanced navigation, productivity and digital life, connected advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and customer insight and management.

Also, Microsoft has also released its Cognitive Toolkit. This is an open-source toolkit for creating applications that are capable of deep learning. Seven further added that they have also released a Cognitive Services API which includes an Emotion API. The API can understand emotions of someone's face such as anger, disgust, fear, contempt, happiness, sadness, surprise, and neutral.

The program manager asked the crowd to imagine this applied to a self-driving car. If the car can detect these emotions such as stress and road rage, the vehicle would be able to alter the environment for the driver or passengers. Moreover, Seven believes that these AI capabilities need algorithms and models to allow cars to become intelligent enough to make decisions. The artificial intelligence required will have meaning interactions with the vehicle's environment, drivers, and passengers.

In a blog post, Microsoft has stated that they hope to bring their intelligent services into cars. This will include business applications, virtual assistants (Cortana), office services (Office 365), and productivity tools (Skype for Business), etc.

Microsoft wants to make itself a partner in the self-driving car race. It does not seek to be a competitor. Its aim is to help autonomous vehicle development. Further reading on the IoT and AI for cars are found here. Do you think this is a good idea? Thoughts and comments below.

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