Nissan Leaf to inaugurate Microsoft-powered connected car platform

The U.S. won't get the technology quite yet.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance turned to Microsoft for help in developing its next-generation connected car platform. The technology will make its debut later in 2019 on two cars in two regions before spreading to other models in the group's portfolio, and to additional markets.

The electric Nissan Leaf and the new, fifth-generation Renault Clio unveiled during the 2019 Geneva auto show will inaugurate the technology, which is called Alliance Intelligent Cloud (AIC). The Clio is one of the best-selling models in Europe, but it's not available in the United States. Cars shipped to Europe and Japan will come with AIC; American-spec variants of the Leaf won't get it right away.

AIC leverages the cloud, artificial intelligence, and internet-of-things technologies provided by Microsoft's Azure platform to keep cars permanently connected to the internet. According to the Alliance, this feature will make life easier for motorists by providing real-time navigation information, and by enabling over-the-air software updates. The group acknowledges that AIC also represents a big opportunity to generate revenue.

"The Alliance is taking a unique approach to addressing the business opportunity provided by connected vehicles by owning, operating, and designing its own intelligent cloud platform on Azure," it wrote in a statement. Cars equipped with the technology will notably send a tremendous amount of data back to the Alliance. It will be captured, managed, and analyzed, but the group hasn't revealed precisely what it will do with it yet.

The Alliance's tie-up with Microsoft reflects a growing trend in the automotive industry. Car companies are increasingly turning to tech firms to help develop infotainment systems and other in-car technologies. Volvo and sister company Polestar notably joined forces with Google to design their next-generation infotainment system, which will make its debut in the Polestar 2. The Alliance has a similar partnership with the firm that will begin to bear fruits in 2021.

"I think the days when we do our own navigation systems, and our own voice control systems, they're gone. There are companies that do it much better than every car manufacturer," Polestar COO Jonathan Goodman summed up.

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