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Microsoft won’t build driverless cars like Google and Apple

Microsoft will not be building a driverless car, it has confirmed – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be heavily involved in the market.

With Google known to be at the forefront of the driverless car development race, and Apple heavily rumoured to be in hot pursuit, many have wondered when Microsoft would join in.

Any hopes of a Microsoft car appear to have been dashed, however, given recent comments by the company’s business development head Peggy Johnson. Speaking at the WSJ-hosted Converge technology conference, Johnson revealed that Microsft “won’t be building our own autonomous vehicle.”

However, Johnson said that Microsoft “would like to enable autonomous vehicles and assisted driving as well.”

So what does it mean to ‘enable’ autonomous vehicles? It appears to be similar to the way Microsoft ‘enabled’ PCs for decades before it even thought about making its own hardware.

Sure enough, Johnson says that Microsoft has been in discussions with seven or eight car makers and related vendors about the kind of applications Microsoft would be able to help with. These are said to be extremely diverse.

Johnson confirmed that it would be possible for car makers to turn to Microsoft for a full car OS rather than Google, but that such companies generally have a more “specific focus” with their requests.

Related: Best self-driving tech from the Geneva Motor Show

For example, some want to bring Microsoft’s peerless productivity products to the car. “You’re sitting in the car for many, many minutes a day,” said Johnson. “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.”

If you’re not driving to work, you might as well work whilst being driven, we suppose.

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Your first autonomous car won’t be made by Microsoft, then, but it could well be powered by the Windows maker in any number of different ways.

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