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Microsoft Offers Connected Car Patents to Toyota, Establishes Partnership

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【Summary】Under the agreement, the car manufacturer will leverage the company’s vehicle connectivity patents to add value to its existing infotainment products.

Michael Cheng    Mar 26, 2017 7:45 AM PT
Microsoft Offers Connected Car Patents to Toyota, Establishes Partnership

Microsoft is wasting no time in making cars smarter and safer for tech-savvy consumers. The business announced a myriad of new connected tools and offerings during the Consumer Electronics Show. Since then, the company has formed numerous partnerships with leading automakers, such as Nissan, Ford and Volvo. 

Recently, Microsoft has struck another deal with a popular automaker – Toyota. Under the agreement, the car manufacturer will leverage the company's vehicle connectivity patents to add value to its existing infotainment products. When it comes to smart car and ADAS features, Toyota is pushing the limits of the industry. Compared to Honda, consumers could benefit from a wide range of autonomous safety features in its latest lineup of vehicles, like the RAV4, which includes entry-level models.

"Microsoft doesn't make cars; we are working closely with today's car companies to help them meet customer demands, and we're pleased today to announce the licensing of our patented technology to our partner, Toyota," said Erich Andersen, corporate vice president and chief IP counsel of Microsoft's Intellectual Property Group.

Connected Car Patents

The patents that Toyota is interested in paints a clear picture of the direction the automaker is heading towards in developing smart car features. According to the agreement, Microsoft is offering its voice recognition and driver gesture control technologies to the business. Autoblog pointed out that the offer is not exclusive, allowing Microsoft to provide the same options to other companies. However, this packaged deal is rare and considered to be the first of its kind. The amount that Toyota paid was undisclosed, though analysts have predicted the contract to be extremely costly and valuable.

Despite developing connected car tools for the evolving auto industry, Microsoft has not shown any interest in manufacturing smart vehicles. Instead, the Windows platform maker has set its sights on profiting from intellectual property surrounding connected car technology.

Long-term Partnerships

This collaborative effort is just one of many partnerships between the two global brands. The duo recently teamed up to bring Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing products into Toyota cars. The platform is being leveraged for its superior data-crunching capabilities, which is used to assess traffic patterns on public roads, as well as monitoring health and awareness levels of drivers. Going back even further, Microsoft's computing expertise was put to the test when it built analysis and information-sharing systems for the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team.

As for Microsoft's other partners in the auto industry, Volvo is using the establishment's HoloLens augmented-reality system to boost hands-off development strategies. The AR platform is being baked into the company's engineering toolkit. Using the iconic HoloLens headset, Volvo could quickly scale training for factory and service workers. The automaker's competitors, Porsche and Audi, are also using similar tools via Oculus Rift headsets.

"This is an exciting time in the industry, and we believe that to create the best, most immersive connected car experiences, automotive makers should partner with technology leaders like Microsoft," said Tokuhisa Nomura, executive general manager of Toyota's Advanced R&D and Engineering Company. 

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