Microsoft partners with GM self-driving subsidiary Cruise
Microsoft, General Motors (GM) and its self-driving subsidiary Cruise have announced a strategic partnership for the commercialisation of autonomous vehicles.
The move is just the latest in a series of forays by technology companies into the increasingly technology-led automotive industry, as with the likes of Google and its Alphabet stablemate Waymo.
Autonomous driving on the cloud
The partnership will see a pooling of software and hardware, in areas ranging from cloud computing to manufacturing capabilities. Cruise, for instance, is to use Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure to scale its autonomous solutions.
The announcement came alongside a bumper new $2bn funding round with participation from Microsoft, sending Cruise’s valuation to $30bn.
“Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”
Although formed as a startup, Cruise was acquired by American automotive giant GM in 2016. GM is the majority owner, but Cruise’s backers include the likes of Honda and SoftBank of Japan.
The former in 2018, with plans for a further $2bn over time, while the latter injected some . In total, the company’s funding rounds have , reflecting the sheer volume of money being invested across the world to bring autonomous vehicles to the market.
Competition to achieve such a service is fierce, with big players including the likes of the Alphabet Inc-owned Waymo, Tesla and Chinese transportation company DiDi. The eventual goal is an autonomous vehicle at level 5 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) , representing complete autonomy at all times.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”