There is a reason the phrase “better together” has taken off. The best ideas, projects, and products come as a result of collaboration. And in an industry such as automotive, collaboration simply isn’t optional, which is why I love Microsoft’s approach to creating a strong ecosystem.
Henry Bzeih, CTO/CSO, automotive & transportation, Microsoft, recently joined me for this very discussion on The Peggy Smedley Show, where we talked about the software-defined vehicle approach, the digital twin, and collaboration.
“Anytime you have a problem and you want to come up with solution, the solution has to come as a collaborative effort of all involved,” he says.
Bzeih explains how while there are a variety of players that have entered the equation, the traditional OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are also evolving and reinventing themselves.
He shares with me the example of Cruise. Earlier this year, Cruise and General Motors announced they entered into a long-term strategy relationship with Microsoft with the objective to speed up the commercialization of self-driving vehicles.
The companies are bringing together—better together, right— their software and hardware engineering excellence, cloud computing capabilities, manufacturing know-how, and partner ecosystem to transform transportation to create a safer, cleaner, and more accessible world for everyone. The result is Poppy. From the first drive to delivering thousands of meals during the pandemic, this car’s “journey is a love letter to San Francisco, one neighborhood at a time,” according to Cruise.
From a technology perspective, Cruise is leveraging Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft is also tapping into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.
“We like to think of ourselves as the place in which any aspirational autonomous vehicle company or area can come and use our cloud, and our workflows, and our platform to develop those workflows,” Bzeih says. “We are trying to develop the ecosystem from a development perspective and through partners … ”
The Digital Feedback Loop
This comes at the right time. According to Bzeih, we are at the point where we are seeing the convergence of automotive and transportation, which is creating an emerging mobility ecosystem. He explains mobility is about the movement of people and the movement of goods. So how do we enable this? Perhaps with the digital feedback loop.
At its core, a digital feedback loop gains insights that ultimately leads to new solutions, which provides even more insights—hence the loop.
“We are firm believers in the digital feedback loop,” says Bzeih. “That is the most important ambition that one can build a business upon. The constant feed or customer input and constant connection between the solution and the customer is on the forefront of everything we develop.”
He says this is a foundation for success and gives an example. In the past, certain OEMs that are not U.S. based would have premium complex vehicles and sometimes dealers would have an issue with a vehicle and would require support from another place in the world. Imagine the logistical challenges—but there is a solution. HoloLens can create a digital experience. Microsoft does that today with OEMs—morphing from physical to visual.
Perhaps one of my biggest takeaways came from the end of our conversation—but it is one of the most widely discussed topics these days and something Microsoft has a close eye on: sustainability.
Quite simply, sustainability is top of mind for everyone, according to Bzeih. “Sustainability always wins in terms of being top of mind.” As such, Microsoft is working diligently to develop the platform and technology to support sustainability efforts across the globe.
In addition, Microsoft is working very closely on electrification, as it wants to be enablers where on the vehicle side with the technology it offers or on the infrastructure side with the technology it offers. Bzeih recognizes these vehicles need to be affordable and Microsoft acts as an enabler. He explains Microsoft doesn’t compete—collaboration is key, remember—all while trying to solve problems.
With EVs (electric vehicles), safety is always going to come first. In fact, Bzeih suggests it is a zero game: zero fatalities and zero emissions. “That is a growing pain we are going through as an industry in terms of taking new technology that we are trying to perfect. It takes time as an industry. The intention is there and everyone is working diligently on achieving that. It is a journey. We will get there.”
So where does this leave us? Where are we headed next? Bzeih envisions a future where the movement of people, specifically, is going to be part of a service rather than a product. … beyond what we see today with Uber and Lyft. I concur. We are moving to a more connected world with our mobility. Everything is beginning to converge, but remember digital transformation is a journey, not a destination.
To learn more about how to accelerate the future of mobility and reimagine automotive, visit The Future of Automotive Industry Solutions | Microsoft Industry
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