Microsoft Introduces Solutions from Assembly Line to Metaverse

The company’s technology powers General Motors’ latest vehicle software platform, Mercedes-Benz factories and Fiat’s new virtual showroom.

Doug Newcomb

January 13, 2023

3 Min Read
Microsoft executive Judson Althoff (left) discusses MO360 Data Platform with Mercedes-Benz leaders Jan Brecht (center) and Jörg Burzer.

LAS VEGAS – CES 2023 marked 16 years since Ford and Microsoft introduced the automaker’s SYNC system, the first phone-and cloud-based automotive infotainment platform. That’s an eon in a technology timeframe and Microsoft rivals Apple and Google now dominate automotive infotainment with their CarPlay and Android Auto platforms.

While Microsoft may no longer be front and center in the vehicle dashboard, the software powerhouse has lately gained automotive momentum and market share in less obvious ways. The company’s Azure cloud platform and accompanying proficiency in edge computing and artificial intelligence, for example, is helping automakers produce next-generation software-defined vehicles, better manage supply chains and manufacturing and even move into the emerging metaverse.   

“Everything comes down to the cloud and edge computing,” says Sanjay Ravi, Microsoft’s general manager of automotive, mobility, and transportation. “And this where we bring in connectivity, AI and everything that’s needed.”

Microsoft’s competencies in these areas are being leveraged by General Motors, for instance, to bring new mobility services to drivers and help the automaker monetize data, Ravi says. At CES, GM announced a partnership with Microsoft to deploy new software-defined vehicle services as the automaker’s Ultifi platform nears deployment in 2023.

Microsoft Azure cloud and AI services will be used by GM to streamline software development via the Ultifi platform.“Ultifi is going to completely reimagine how vehicles are connected and software is updated,” says Ravi. “From a consumer perspective, it means once you buy a car, you get a certain set of experiences and you can constantly update those experiences.”

The Ultifi platform will also create data that drives new business models and revenue streams, says Ravi. “CEO Mary Barra shared during the latest GM Investor Day that the company is going to derive $20 (billion) to $30 billion in a software-driven revenue,” he adds. “All this is going to come from the Ultifi platform and we play a role in enabling that.”gm-microsoft

gm-microsoft-lockup (002)

Microsoft in 2022 also began working with Mercedes-Benz to connect about 30 of its assembly plants worldwide to the Microsoft Cloud and leverage Microsoft’s new MO360 Data Platform to improve transparency and consistency across its production operations and supply chain. “Mercedes-Benz announced a couple of months back how they’re seeing about a 20% efficiency [gain] in manufacturing using these technologies,” says Ravi.

Daimler Truck North America also is using Microsoft’s Supply Chain Platform to simplify processes and keep end-to-end tabs on its entire supply chain. “IoT- and AI-driven efficiencies give these companies much better visibility into what’s occurring on the plant floor and make predictive decisions,” says Ravi.

“We call it Resilient Operations and it covers both the manufacturing and the supply chain areas,” he adds. “ZF will be rolling it out to 97-plus factories across the world. So that’s a huge focus for us and we are building on that in the manufacturing supply chain area,” Ravi says.

Fiat announced at CES that it’s working with Microsoft to create a 3D immersive virtual showroom in the metaverse (pictured, below) for new Fiat 500 La Prima that’s hosted on the Azure cloud. Customers in Italy can interact with Fiat product specialists, simulate a test drive and even make a new-vehicle purchase in the virtual world.

“Automotive has been a focused business at Microsoft for many years,” says Ravi. “We’ve been in the car for decades so we know the constraints and how to make things work in an automotive environment.

“It’s a space we know well in terms of how to create specific personalized experiences for folks using our AI capabilities,” he says. “It all comes together in our experience, technology, intelligent cloud and edge computing, plus a lot of the productivity expertise.”

And it’s a long way from SYNC circa 2007 and pre-smartphone when connecting an iPod to car was considered cutting edge.

Fiat Metaverse Store


Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like