Cities are facing one big challenge: failing infrastructure, which is impacting all facets of city mobility including automotive. Even with hybrid working arrangements for many, there is still a strain on our cities’ infrastructure systems. Here is my question: what if we reimagined mobility?

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Sanjay Ravi, general manager of automotive, mobility & transportation industry, Microsoft, to talk about what the technology giant has been doing this past year, how sustainability and digital transformation plays into what it is doing, and what is to come at CES in a couple of weeks.

For Microsoft, 2021 continued to be a year of partnerships. “We are looking at our role as being the technology partner for the mobility industry,” he says. “It has been exciting. We have had a number of key partnerships.”

Earlier this year, Cruise and General Motors announced they entered into a long-term strategy relationship with Microsoft with the objective to speed up the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. Microsoft has also partnered with Volkswagen Group, Amadeus, ZF, and Bosch, just to name a few more.

One of the ways Microsoft does this is with software-defined vehicles and open ecosystems. Given the pace of change is accelerating, it is critical for organizations come together and drive innovation while leveraging open ecosystems.

“Software-defined vehicles are going to be core to a lot of the innovation opportunities here,” Ravi says. “And we have also engaged with the open-source community with Eclipse Foundation because we believe you have to bring the broader ecosystem together and drive innovation, leveraging open source, given the complexity and the number of ecosystem partners involved here.”

Microsoft has also been very focused on sustainability and digital transformation—and how this impacts city mobility. Microsoft, for instance, has a goal to be net zero by the year 2030, and it aims to help support others meet their goals as well.

“Our industry is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions and the carbon footprint,” he says. “All of us have a huge responsibility.” He also talks about the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, which is a platform that helps customers and partners record, report, and reduce emissions, leveraging data from a number of disparate sources and giving people the insights they need. They will get visibility to the carbon footprint and intelligence in terms of smarter ways to reduce the carbon footprint.

As I always say, we need to look back to truly understand how we can look forward. We need to understand where we have been if we are going to know where we are headed and how we can avoid making the mistakes of the past. Such is the case for mobility—everything from city mobility to automotive. We need to understand how this space has evolved in the past year and what is coming in the months ahead—and there is much to be excited about, as we look ahead to CES 2022.

Ravi teased some of what you can expect from the upcoming CES show. “It is really exciting to see the automotive presence at CES,” he explains. “At Microsoft, we have a dedicated booth as well and we will be highlighting a number of innovations that we have had an opportunity to partner with.”

He shares a few of them including: GM and BrightDrop in terms of what they are doing around sustainable mobility and last mile; Wejo and data monetization efforts; Eclipse Foundation and software-defined vehicles; and work being done with ZF.

However, it is his vision for mobility in the next decade that is perhaps the most impressive—where we will all live in a world of mobility that is more sustainable, safer, and more productive.

“We are in a one-in-a-generation opportunity in mobility and that is the kind of transformation we are seeing,” he says. “As we look forward, some of the foundational elements are already being put in place. We are going to see a future in mobility where the world of mobility will be more sustainable with electric vehicles and electric charging infrastructure.”

He goes on to say, “We are getting into a safer world, and this is something that drives me and many others at Microsoft. With advanced technologies like assisted drive and autonomous development, we are well on our way to help reduce the number of accidents and make this world a lot safer.

The last one is productivity—both efficiency and entertainment. “Those are three main areas that we see the future of mobility evolving to being more of a sustainable, safer, and productive environment. The last thing I will highlight is we are getting into a world where there is a whole range of smart mobility services and digital business models that will come to life. And you do require the right digital platforms to enable this. We are already seeing a number of innovations in this space, and we will continue to see the industry evolving into more of a software and digital-driven industry.”

Stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

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