Microsoft is taking Cortana for a joyride in your car

Car manufacturers are well-acquainted with Microsoft. For over 15 years the company’s Windows CE or Windows Automotive embeddable software has been behind software from BMW, Fiat, Ford, Kia, and Nissan.

What the company hasn’t had any control over is the end experience – with Apple bringing ‘CarPlay’ to upcoming vehicles; it’s overdue that Microsoft takes the car for another spin…

A new version of Windows for the car was shown off at last week’s BUILD developer conference in both simulators showing eye-tracking, and in actual cars in a Seattle raceway. Currently it’s only a concept but one which is already functional and executives are confident will see a release soon.

The interface features the tiled “Modern UI” synonymous with current software releases from Microsoft. It’s flat, simple, and functional. Navigation is a simple swipe between pages and applications can be “pinned” to give easy-access to what is needed.

Connected cars control data between the main CAN (Controller Area Network) to govern on the vehicle’s functions. It’s not clear whether Microsoft plans to hook into the car to take control of functions such as heating and ABS control.

A technology developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium called ‘MirrorLink’ enables devices to connect to the in-vehicle system to display data such as contacts, calls, and messages.

Instead of just mirroring this content, which could be a hindrance when driving, Microsoft is looking to reduce the “cognitive load” so there’s less requirement to think about what you’re doing. This is achieved through minimizing the “eye time” on the screen beyond 2 seconds.

Microsoft’s impressive new voice assistant, Cortana, will be along for the ride to remove the need to look at the screen altogether. The assistant is also clever enough to learn who you are likely to want to receive calls from, where you might be heading, and providing updates you could be interested in whilst on your journey.

It’s not clear how soon Windows in the Car might reach shipping vehicles, but the crew in Redmond is testing code inside real cars and is showing it to the public, so it goes some way to showing Microsoft is readying itself to enter your vehicle sooner rather than later.

Would you embrace Windows in your vehicle?

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