Cortana Comes to Cars

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【Summary】Cortana is coming to Nissan and Renault vehicles.

Timothy Healey    Jan 16, 2017 1:10 PM PT
Cortana Comes to Cars

Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant is coming to cars.

Microsoft has been working on in-car software for years, and the company has powered Ford's Sync and Kia's UVO infotainment systems. Now it's partnering with Renault/Nissan to bring its Cortana personal-assistant software – which uses voice recognition – to cars.

It will all be part of the company's Connected Vehicle Platform, which itself uses the Azure cloud platform.

Nissan/Renault will be the first automotive partner for Microsoft on this new platform.

In addition to Sync and UVO, Microsoft pairs with Toyota on an existing cloud-based connected-car system and it has already announced other partnerships with Nissan and Volvo.

Meanwhile, Amazon is collaborating with Ford on a system using its own voice-based personal assistant, Alexa.

"As you may have gathered, Microsoft is not building its own connected car," Peggy Johnson, Microsoft executive vice president of business development, said in a post about the new platform. "Instead, we want to help automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brands, address their customers' unique needs, competitively differentiate their products and generate new and sustainable revenue streams."

Furthermore, Johnson said, "Microsoft's cloud will do the heavy lifting by ingesting huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, and then helping automakers apply that data in powerful ways." Microsoft's new system will use Microsoft products including Cortana, Dynamics, Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business.

Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said the partnership would make driving a car "more productive and seamless."

The system was announced earlier this month at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Microsoft also used CES to announce a connected-car demo. Microsoft partnered with NXP, IAV, Swiss Re, Esri and Cubic Telecom on that particular project.

An in-car presence for personal-assistant systems that use voice recognition is a natural next step for ever-evolving automotive tech trends. Apple's Siri system is already available in several vehicles, and many cars have, of course, used Bluetooth voice-recognition systems for years. Smartphone mirroring systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also use voice recognition.

Increasing the use of personal-assistance software like this in cars offers up more opportunities for consumers. For example, while drivers can already use voice-recognition systems in cars to make dinner reservations or order flowers, it will be even easier and quicker to do so with Cortana or Alexa (which is why Nissan/Renault is interested in such a system). 

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