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Microsoft and Daimler help morning commuters make better time

Many of us love our cars, but we don’t necessarily love spending time in them during the work week if it means inching forward on the freeway or being stuck in stop-and-go traffic. When we’re behind the wheel during those long commutes, we often end up behind the curve by the time we get to work.

Emails pile up. So do phone messages. And finding a place to pull over so you can stop and safely use your mobile to dial into a meeting can add miles and minutes to your drive.

To help make time in the car more productive, Microsoft is working with auto companies to bring to the car the same Office 365 communication and collaboration services you’ve come to rely on at work. Office 365 in the car includes Microsoft Exchange support, which integrates your work calendar, to-do list and contacts, with all of them using your car’s voice and navigation systems.

Need to dial into a Skype meeting? Office in the car will do so for you, without you having to take your hands off the wheel, or find a place to get off the road.

One of the first automotive manufacturers to bring Office 365 to several of their models will be Daimler AG.

The system, “knows about your next phone conferences and dials you in automatically while you’re in the car,” said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, speaking at IFA 2016 in Berlin earlier this month.

The service can also tap into your calendar data and auto-populate your car’s navigation unit with driving directions for an upcoming meeting. In the future, when autonomous vehicles become a reality, the service will become a platform for more extensive tasks like Skype video chats.

Daimler will start using what it calls “In Car Office” in some of its Mercedes models beginning in mid-2017.

“Microsoft is working with auto companies to make time spent in vehicles more efficient and connected to people’s daily lives,” said Kevin Dallas, Corporate Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft Corp. “This collaboration with Daimler represents a new emphasis on consumer productivity within the car as we look forward to autonomous driving in the future.”

Zetsche noted that, “fully self-driving cars will be the greatest upgrade in the history of the car,” but that in the meantime, “the car is steadily developing into a quality time machine.”

It may not always feel that way, especially where traffic is concerned. In the U.S., it takes the average commuter 26 minutes to travel to work one way, and nearly 17 percent of Americans have commutes that are 45 minutes or longer, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “The astonishing human potential wasted on commutes,” was The Washington Post’s headline on the census findings.

With additions like In Car Office, “Instead of falling behind in work while on the road, you can actually get ahead,” said Zetsche.

To learn more about Microsoft’s views on the future state of the automotive industry, read The Future of Automotive report by innovation think tank PSFK in partnership with Microsoft that presents various opportunities for driving business forward in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.