Software giant Microsoft and car-maker Toyota have announced a new strategic partnership that will have the companies putting ¥1 billion (about $12 million) into a Toyota subsidiary to develop a telematics platform for Toyota plug-in hybrid and fully-electric vehicles. Telematics encompasses everything from digital entertainment to driving information like GPS and traffic updates to energy management and other data-driven services in a vehicle—and the whole thing will be powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.
“Today’s announcement of our partnership with TMC is a great example of how we continue to invest in the automotive industry and of our commitment to power the services that are important to consumers,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in a statement. “It further validates the power of the cloud, as the Windows Azure platform will provide the enterprise-grade, scalable platform that TMC needs to deliver telematics in its automobiles worldwide.”
Toyota believes that as plug-in electric cars and hybrids become more widespread, telematics services will emerge as key components of consumers’ use and operations of the vehicles. Telematics will be central to providing efficient energy management for the vehicles and consumers’ homes (where they’ll have to plug the cars in), as well as for providing multimedia services, in-car info-tainment, mapping services, and search. Although the companies didn’t offer many concrete examples, they did suggest that a cloud-based system could be smart about a user’s schedule and work to ensure a car was always charged when its owner would need it, as well as be smart about charging the car when electricity prices were at their lowest.
The Toyota services will integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine as well as Microsoft’s TellMe voice application. In vehicles, systems will run on Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive platform.
Microsoft and Toyota’s partnership will be separate from the company’s partnership with Ford, which has produced Microsoft Sync, with Ballmer emphasizing that while Sync has been about providing in-car services, their work with Toyota will be about delivering information through a cloud platform.