Driving Toward the Connected Car: BMW, Citro e n, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volvo Add Microsoft’s Embedded Operating System in New Cars



The 2002 BMW 7 Series uses Microsoft telematics technology in its iDrive system.

REDMOND, Wash., July 15, 2002 — Andy Summers wakes up every weekday with a familiar feeling in the pit of his stomach: the ache of commuter dread.

“I cant leave early enough to beat the morning rush, and I cant stay at work late enough to miss it on the way home,”
the Pasadena, Calif. resident says about his daily commute to downtown Los Angeles.
“Im trapped in my car from anywhere between two to four hours a day. I could have flown to Mexico in the time it takes me to get to work some days.”

Summers is like many U.S. commuters who today collectively spend more than 500 million hours commuting in their cars every week, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Many drivers try to recoup this downtime by conducting business or catching up with family and friends via their cell phone. But this could soon change. Last year, New York became the first state to ban the use of cell phones while driving. Another 40 states have proposed similar laws.

Whats the answer for commuters like Summers? In a word, telematics, in-car computing systems that allow drivers to accomplish a wide variety of tasks — everything from accessing and responding to e-mail to reviewing their calendars — without taking their hands off the steering wheel or their eyes off the road. For the last decade, Microsoft has been working with automakers to make telematics a reality for drivers. Today, leading automakers BMW, Citro
ë
n, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volvo are using Microsoft technology to operate the in-dash computer in their vehicles.

“Theres no question that in-vehicle computing and communications is on the verge of becoming mainstream. Motorists demand connectivity, information on the move and a personalized driving experience,”
says Gonzalo Bustillos, director of business development and marketing for the Automotive Business Unit at Microsoft.
“The challenge ahead for the industry is make the technology foolproof. There can be no compromise on key automotive attributes: safety, security or ease of use.”

Bringing Your Internet Lifestyle on the Road

In addition to e-mail and scheduling, telematics devices can allow drivers to conduct telephone conversations or receive live traffic updates, automated service updates for their car, satellite radio and, of course, Internet browsing. All of these things can be done hands-free because, if the system manufacturer chooses, telematics systems have the ability to enable drivers to interact in a natural voice with their in-car communication device.

This new technology allows drivers to personalize their commute beyond todays two most common options: calling on a cell phone and switching between radio stations. Instead, drivers can ask their in-dash computer to find the fastest route to work. A navigation system then can read back the directions, or, if the car is idle, the driver can view the route on an LCD screen. By talking to the computer, drivers can check e-mail and review upcoming appointments on their calendars. They can also find the latest sports scores or stock updates, or browse the local paper. The computer can report when an oil change is due, and ask whether to make an appointment at the dealer.

“Id actually get a better nights sleep knowing I wasnt wasting so much of my day in the car,”
Summers says.

If I could get some work done, have the paper read to me and check my oil, I dont know, it would be like Christmas everyday.”

On the Road Today

Almost every major automaker has a telematics device in one or more of its car lines, and most automakers have plans to add more in the near future. Microsoft telematics technology has recently been added to these models:

  • 2002 BMW 7 Series iDrive system in the United States

  • 2002 Volvo S60, S80, V70 and Cross Country models in the United States Citro
    ë
    ns C5 and Xsara in France and Germany

  • Mitsubishis Mirage Dingo, Airtrek, Lancer Cedia and Chariot Grandis in Japan

  • Subarus Legacy Lancaster ADA in Japan

In various models, Microsoft technology is used to power the navigation system, hands-free cellular phone control, voice recognition, maintenance status and wireless synchronization of data with mobile devices in the vehicles.

“Putting Microsoft technology in our vehicles takes us one step closer to the end-to-end connectivity that our consumers are asking for,”
says Phil Bienert, manager of CRM, e-business, and future product strategy for Volvo Cars of North America, LLC.
“We see Microsoft as a partner that drives our business today and in the future.”

While its up to each automaker to determine which applications to include in its telematics system, it is the technology supplier that delivers the pieces of the puzzle.

Bustillos says Microsofts automotive vision is an extension of the companys overall vision:
“Empower people through great software, any time, any place, and on any device.”
.NET connected software for the car connects cars to the Internet in the same way most people are connected at home and in the office. It is based on Microsofts .NET strategy and family of products and the fundamental purpose of .NET technologies — to provide a standardized means for requesting and transmitting information across the Internet to enable information and services that can be used in any environment.

“Automobiles will soon represent the second largest wireless connected device platform, second only to smart phones,”
Bustillos says.
“With the average American spending more than 500 hours a year in the car, Microsoft has made serving this market with Windows CE for Automotive a key component of our strategy. And were succeeding, with many of the major Tier 1 suppliers and automaker adopting our technologies.”

Safety First

Like the California commuter Summers, Ami Hirayama appreciates the convenience of telematics.
“I would love to be able to check my e-mail or get driving directions in the car, but Ive also got two young girls,”
says Hirayama, who commutes daily in Seattle, Wash. for her job as a project manager with the Cobalt Group.
“If I had to take my eyes off the road, I couldnt compromise their safety for that convenience.”

While functions are important, automakers and their technology partners have identified safety as the key factor for telematics — for good reason. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driving distractions are a contributing factor in one in four collisions, representing more than 1.5 million crashes a year or more than 4,300 crashes a day. These crashes are attributed to a variety of reasons, from eating in the car to changing the radio station.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers recently announced a set of voluntary guidelines to minimize driver distraction. While these guidelines havent been fully disclosed, automakers and telematics technology providers have publicly pledged their support to reach a consensus on the line between safety and distraction when it comes to in-car technology.

While telematics may look and operate somewhat differently in different cars, one notion appears universal between the auto industry and its partners: the easier and more seamless a telematics device is to operate, the safer it will be for drivers and passengers.

Voice-recognition technology is the most obvious safety and convenience feature because it allows drivers to speak to the system rather than take their eyes off the road. Most of todays in-car computing systems are
“smart”
enough to listen to a spoken command, such as
“check e-mail,”
and read the information back to the driver so that his or her attention is focused on the road.

Microsofts Windows CE for Automotive 3.5 takes voice recognition a step further than any other speech system on the market by enabling the system to talk to the driver rather than rely on the driver to give a laundry list of commands. For instance, Microsofts speech system allows a driver to say,
“Schedule a meeting with Bob Taylor.”
The speech system would then say, ”
“On what day?””
followed by,
“At what time?””
Rather than rely on the driver to give a long command, any part of which could potentially be left out, the car is able to
“talk”
to the driver in order to determine what he or she needs.

Another important safety feature is the way in which the driver is alerted to competing incoming messages. When a person is working on a computer, for instance, and a banner ad pops up, it may be annoying, but it doesnt pose a physical threat. However, in the car, a confusing interruption, such as an incoming call received while the voice-activated computer is reading the sports headlines, could lead to an accident. The answer in most advanced telematics systems is a queuing system of sorts, one that ensures no one incoming call or other application can interfere with another.

Telematics Catching On

As telematics devices make their way into more automobiles, drivers may find themselves able to do more than glare at the bumper ahead of them. Cell phones and PDAs are already being used in the car; however, many drivers are looking for ways to use their mobile devices in a safe, seamless way on the road. Whether or not telematics becomes commonplace tomorrow or in 10 years, one thing is certain: todays commuters are spending a lot of time in the car — a lot of time with limited interaction with the outside world.

“Our highways and smaller roads are becoming more congested every day — driving is becoming a hassle instead of an effective means to get from point A to point B,”
says Bustillos.
“Although we cannot do much to alleviate traffic, we can certainly offer motorists a way to make their commute time more informative, productive and fun.”

“Besides hands free telephony, the digital car experience offers the driver choices for a personalized audio experience: digital music, instant messaging, location based information and services,”
Bustillos says:
“With this many options, I think most people can look forward to getting in the car to face their commute.”

As for Summers, he doesnt yet have telematics in his car, but many of his friends are beginning to buy new cars with Internet connections, GPS and other advanced features.
“Im jealous,”
he says.
“It makes me want to buy a new car.”

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