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Microsoft partners with TomTom for smarter maps, smarter mobility

It will implement some of TomTom's know-how into its Azure cloud platform.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

You can't build a good self-driving car without good maps. Or, I suppose you could, if you wanted to hit a lot of walls. Microsoft seems to realize this, and it's teaming up with TomTom to ensure the next generation of cars comes with some quality maps.

TomTom and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see location-based services integrated into Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to make it easier to add location awareness to Internet of Things applications. Azure is an open platform that could theoretically operate on a wide variety of automakers' operating systems.

It's all about that data. Microsoft will be able to look at schedules and driving patterns, offering up suggestions for different routes or potential points of interest. TomTom's strong history in mapping will help the partnership as these platforms move into autonomous vehicles, as well.

"Through our partnership with Microsoft, we can bring all our map layers to the Microsoft Azure ecosystem and foster innovation that makes people's lives better," said Pieter Gillegot-Vergauwen, TomTom's vice president of maps, at a small event in Detroit on Wednesday. "We're working actively to lead the way to a future of smart mobility, smarter cities and autonomous driving."

Microsoft is determined to ensure that Azure has a place in the next generation of automobiles. The company already partnered with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which will use Azure to implement new connectivity options like remote vehicle diagnostics and over-the-air updates.

The cloud-based portion of BMW's Connected app, which it debuted earlier this year, relies on Azure's machine-learning capabilities, as well. It can make predictions for a driver's intended destination based on the time of day and the driver's previous habits.