Microsoft is doubling down on car tech as Google and Apple creep up

Volvo, Microsoft BandVolvoYou will soon be able to control your Volvo with Microsoft Band

Microsoft is thinking through all the fun things you’ll be doing in your car as automobiles gradually become autonomous and drive themselves.

And the company is showcasing some of its ideas and technology at CES this week.

For instance, Harman, which makes car navigation and entertainment systems, will be adding Microsoft Office 365 software to its systems, Microsoft said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Drivers will be able to use voice commands to schedule meetings, hear and respond to emails or make Skype calls when the car is in park, or, someday in the future, when the car is driving you around.

Meanwhile, German automotive engineering company IAV is working on tech that will basically turn your car into a giant Windows 10 machine. It will stream Windows 10 via a mobile device directly to a car’s dashboard. In this way, drivers will be able to access apps such as Cortana, Skype for Business, Calendar, Outlook and Groove Music while the vehicle is parked or in autonomous driving mode.

Meanwhile, Volvo is showing off some prototypes from tech the two companies announced in November that will let you use an app combined with a Microsoft Band 2 (Microsoft’s fitness tracker/smartwatch) and a Windows 10 smartphone. This gives you voice controls to your car. For instance, you can press a button on the Band, and say, “Volvo, start the heater of my car” or if you are sitting in a cafe, say,”send the meeting address to my Volvo” among other commands.

New competition

In November, Microsoft and Volvo also announced plans to let people shop for cars using Microsoft’s virtual reality headset, HoloLens and to develop self-driving cars.

Meanwhile, Nissan Motor Company and Microsoft announced that all Nissan LEAF and Infiniti models in Europe will have Connect Telematics Systems (CTS) powered by Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. This will provides info like maps, range prediction, charging station availability, charge status, etc.

Microsoft isn’t new to the car software business. It has actually been selling car infotainment systems for eons and has previously supplied such tech to Toyota, Ford, Qoros and Delphi.

But given that Google is working on self-driving cars and Apple is also rumoured to be working on a car scheduled to arrive in 2019, Microsoft is also stepping up its game.

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