Volvo partners with Microsoft to drive next-gen auto technologies

The Microsoft HoloLens is a wearable computer that can be used to blend holograms with the real world.

By Mike Davey

Toronto, Ontario — November 23, 2015 — Volvo has announced it will partner with Microsoft to jointly develop next generation automotive technologies. Areas of future collaboration between the two companies could include autonomous driving technologies and the utilization of data generated from connected cars to create new services.

For now, the two companies have revealed how Microsoft HoloLens, the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer, might be used in future to redefine how customers first encounter and explore a car, as well as how cars might be bought and sold in future. Given the way the technology functions, it’s also possible it will find a use within the repair space.

A recent HoloLens demonstration was conducted at Microsoft’s global headquarters in Redmond, Virginia and showed how mixed reality might be used by customers to configure cars in three dimensions. With HoloLens, holograms are mixed into the physical world.

“HoloLens offers the freedom to create a bespoke experience which customers can steer themselves. Imagine using mixed reality to choose the type of car you want – to explore the colours, rims, or get a better understanding of the features, services and options available,” said Björn Annwall, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service for Volvo.

He added HoloLens technology might also liberate dealers from more traditional sales environments and allow them to take a car configurator out on the road in small pop-up stores, shopping malls or in commercial shopping districts, opening up new sales channels and introducing cars to a far larger potential audience. The event offered an indication of the potential of mixed reality to transform the relationship between the customer and the car. Journalists were able to experience Volvo’s new sedan and its latest autonomous driving technology in 3D before the car has even been built and launched.

“We are thrilled to be working with Volvo Cars to reimagine what is possible in car design, discovery and purchasing. We are excited to be at this intersection of technology and human-centric design with Volvo,” Scott Erickson, Senior Director, Microsoft HoloLens at Microsoft Corp.

The demonstration marks the beginning of longer term cooperation between Volvo and Microsoft that will embrace a range of new technologies, all of which have implications for the automotive industry. One area of focus will be autonomous driving.

Volvo Cars has long considered itself a pioneer in car safety and this includes connected cars and autonomous driving. The company has announced a program called Drive-Me in which 100 self-driving and connected cars will be given to real customers on real roads around the Swedish city of Gothenburg by 2017, the world’s largest autonomous driving experiment. Other areas of cooperation are expected to include how information gathered by cars and their drivers can be used to enhance the driving experience and the possibility of using predictive analytics to improve safety.

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