Nissan and Renault are teaming up with Microsoft to create connected, driverless cars

Connected vehicles are the next step in automotive technology. By using the cloud, cars of the future will be able to share information for more intelligent navigation, but they’ll also be able to keep us entertained too. In the same way, connected cars will also allow us to treat our cars like an iPhone, giving owners the ability to control them remotely, upload their data from elsewhere, or even receive over the air updates. BMW, Mercedes and Audi have joined forced to develop the connected HERE platform, and Nissan and Renault have just announced a partnership with an altogether different company: Microsoft.

Yesterday Microsoft announced that it’ll be working with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to develop connected car technology, and it’ll be using its Azure cloud infrastructure to do so. According to Microsoft, the Azure platform will be used as a foundation for more advanced navigation and data applications, those more suited to the demands of a connected car.

The move also follows Renault-Nissan’s commitment to develop 10 autonomous vehicles by 2020. And what is the Renault-Nissan alliance, you ask? No, Renault and Nissan didn’t buy each other out while you weren’t looking, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is more of a partnership designed to increase the reach and scope of both brands, and it’s proving particularly useful for developing new expensive tech, like hybrid or electric cars, and autonomous tech.audi_connected_cars_here_maps_swarm_5

Ogi Redzic, Renault-Nissan Alliance’s senior vice president of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services, said; “A car is becoming increasingly connected, intelligent and personal. Partnering with Microsoft allows us to accelerate the development of the associated key technologies needed to enable scenarios our customers want and build all-new ones they haven’t even imagined.”

“While the connected car experience is in its infancy, we believe there’s so much potential to dramatically change the industry. We are partnering to accelerate Renault-Nissan’s mobile and cloud strategies and unlock new experiences for their customers,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft. “This collaboration will bring a new standard to connected cars.”

Why Microsoft?

While Microsoft isn’t the first company you’d associate with automotive technology, the moves makes a lot of sense – and it’ll be a trend you’ll see more and more over the next few years. As the automotive industry becomes more tech focused, carmakers are being presented with two clear choices. They can either bite the bullet and develop their own technology, like BMW, Mercedes and Audi have with HERE – or they can partner with an existing tech giant. Nissan and Renault have chosen the latter, and it comes with some clear benefits.audi_connected_cars_here_maps_swarm_3

Microsoft is already well up to speed with cloud-based services, and that means Renault and Nissan won’t have to spend huge amounts on R&D. What’s more, Microsoft is well-versed in the need to protect the data of cloud users – and that’s particuarly valuable in a world where Tesla, Jeeps and even Nissans have been hacked pretty easily.

Format War

The only issue? Nissan and Renault are using connected car tech for media and navigation purposes, but the true end game of connected cars is more to do with autonomous tech. Systems like HERE will eventually share data between cars, and it’s this Swarm technology that’ll make autonomous driving even safer – and remove the need for traffic lights altogether.

However, with each carmaker already partnering with a different tech firm, you can already see potential conflicts taking place. How will a connected infrastructure work when different cars car makers are on different wavelengths, or use different systems? Unless companies decide on a standard for connected tech, buying cars of the future will be like choosing between Android and iOS, or VHS and Betamax.

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