While autonomous driving, electric vehicles, and ride-sharing have been prominently featured in automotive news throughout 2016, Volvo has made an announcement of a different kind as we close out the year. In partnership with Microsoft, Volvo Car Group will be introducing Skype for Business integration in its new 90 Series vehicles, making it the first car manufacturer to launch the productivity application in-car.
With respect to the forthcoming vehicle feature, Vice President Consumer Connectivity Services, Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz said:
"We’ve all been there. Sitting in the car trying to join a conference call. You either fumble with or drop your phone while trying to connect or you forget the long pin code to join. It’s not the best way to start an important call in the car. On top of all that your attention is not where it should be – on the road. With the addition of Skype for Business all that goes away."
The integrated experience will allow users to view their upcoming meetings, participant information, and enter a conference calls with a single tap on the vehicle's center screen. While audio conference call capability would be the bare minimum inclusion, it would seem unlikely that video conferencing would also be made available given the increased potential for driver distraction.
Although Skype for Business may seem a somewhat narrow offering to incorporate into vehicles compared to the popular consumer version of Skype, the ability to make calls between the two services has been possible for the last two years.
Furthermore, the partnership between the companies also covers the exploration of leveraging Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, to provide "seamless voice recognition and contextual insights to support peoples’ daily lives by actively predicting their needs."
While a number of car manufacturers have already provided varying levels of voice recognition functionality in their vehicles, it will be interesting to see exactly how successful a Cortana-based solution could become amidst competition from Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay.