DETROIT -- Microsoft announced a partnership that will provide "smart" maps for self-driving vehicles and data for motorists to guide their daily routines.
The software giant said today it signed up an Amsterdam-based mapmaker -- TomTom N.V. -- to provide high-definition maps to guide self-driving vehicles.
Microsoft also expanded its existing partnerships with two other suppliers of mapping data: Here, based in Chicago, and Esri, a company headquartered in Redlands, Calif.
“This is a massive new opportunity,” said Microsoft Managing Director Sanjay Ravi during a Wednesday press briefing in suburban Detroit. “We are working with these partners to build an open platform, so that software developers can build their own services.”
The partners will create a cloud-based database for Microsoft Azure, a platform for software developers to create location-based services for motorists.
Microsoft will analyze the motorist’s schedule, to-do lists and driving patterns -- along with weather data and accident reports -- to offer suggestions for alternate routes, nearby restaurants, parking garages, etc. And high-definition maps created by TomTom and Here will help self-driving vehicles navigate on highways.
Azure will be an open software architecture that will work with any vehicle’s operating system. Automakers will own their own vehicles’ data, said Chris Pendleton, manager of Microsoft’s Internet-of-Things initiative.
“We are not a closed shop where you have to take it or leave it,” Pendleton noted.
The venture expands upon Microsoft’s earlier initiatives to establish a niche in the cockpit. Last January, the company partnered with Harman International to integrate Microsoft Office into infotainment systems. Motorists can schedule conference calls, respond to e-mails or access their calendars.
However, Microsoft’s new venture will have to contend with Apple and Google, which already have a presence in the cockpit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Other suppliers also are muscling into the market for smart maps. In February, Continental AG confirmed that it has a contract to supply its eHorizon smart map to an unnamed customer. Continental developed its map with IBM, Cisco and Here.