Microsoft looking to build self-driving tech, not necessarily a car

– Microsoft Corp. isn’t building its own self-driving car, but is bullish on helping others with related technology, a senior executive said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“We won’t be building our own autonomous vehicle but we would like to enable autonomous vehicles and assisted driving as well,” said Peggy Johnson, who heads business development for the Redmond, Wash., tech titan, speaking at the Converge technology conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal and founders in Hong Kong Friday, June 3.

Johnson said Microsoft has asked various auto makers what kind of technological applications they are looking for, whether it is working with Azure, its cloud-based service for businesses, Office 365, the cloud version of its productivity software suite, or its Windows operating system.

Auto makers are “all looking to differentiate in the space,” she said, with Microsoft having had discussions with “about seven or eight different auto makers and tier one vendors to the auto community” about potential applications, WSJ says.

“We in different ways enabled a variety of different partners and you’ll see us continuing to do that,” she said.

Asked by Wall Street Journal Deputy Editor in Chief Rebecca Blumenstein if an auto maker could partner with Microsoft rather than Alphabet Inc.’s Google to create an operating system for cars, Johnson said that would be possible.

However, she said, auto makers “generally will come to us with a specific focus.” Some want to help increase productivity in cars, for example.

“You’re sitting in the car for many, many minutes a day. Can that be part of your new office, can it be your new desk, a place where you actually get work done? We believe it can. Each of them had a little something different that they wanted,” she said, according to WSJ.

Asked how soon such technologies might make their appearance, Johnson said “that’s probably more up to auto makers because they’re probably doing the heavier lift here.”