Microsoft and Toyota Herald the Next-Generation of the Driving Experience

Logo_ToyotaAt this month’s MEEC Conference, I joked that I thought we would have flying cars by now. Perhaps, a cloud powered vehicle is better than flying cars. April 6, 2011, Microsoft and Toyota announced that 2012 Toyota vehicle next-generation telematics services will be powered by Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform as a service. 

Imagine a world where your car is continually accessing intelligence from the cloud in relationship to your schedule or your routine for today.  You generally take the kids to school at 7:15 AM; however, it is raining today so you car sends a text to your smartphone that may also appears on multiple devices (e.g. your television) that you may need to leave earlier based on the current weather.  If you are driving an hybrid-electric vehicle, the car will identify the amount of charge it has to get through the day and where the most convenient charging stations are located along your route for a longer journey.  Meanwhile, as you leave the house, your car will signal your home alarm system to activate and begin monitoring while you are away.

Nearly, one-third of the costs of today’s vehicles are the computers inside them.  Now, Toyota and Microsoft are extending the reach of that in-vehicle computing to the cloud with Windows Azure. It is inherently suggested that the next-generation Toyota vehicles will always be connected to the cloud without the need of your mobile broadband.  The immediate benefits are many and the broader possibilities are in greater.

What strikes me about this announcement is the signal it gives to the years ahead becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated.  While all of this sophistication will be hidden from the consumer, it does require schools and policymakers to rethink what automotive technology curriculum should look like in our high schools, community and technical colleges.

This Toyota-Microsoft Alliance provides a glimpse of where private-public partnerships need to evolve in supporting STEM education with similar alliances for curriculum and instruction.   Future certified auto professionals will most likely need a related Microsoft cloud certification. In some cases, corporations can partner to create unique career-ready learning experiences. However, I believe we will see the greatest learning innovation when teachers and students are empowered and equipped to create their own mash-up learning experiences.

Breakthrough innovation is not linear.  It takes you on a path others would not have envisioned. When ideas from different disciplines and industries intersect, they create exponential opportunities. Toyota and Microsoft are positioning the next-generation of cars to do things that are hard for us to consider today by intersecting ideas from different disciplines, cultures, and technologies. New product experiences for consumers are also indicative of new career experiences for learners. This a great example of how students can go “from STEM to Earning” a living.

If we are going to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world, our classrooms need start an academic remix of learning multiple disparate disciplines simultaneously.  I am advocating more than we will do math and reading in science, social studies, career and technology, and arts. In a mashed-up world of innovation, stove-pipe learning will not suffice. 

I can already see what the implications for education subject-matter specialists, but I will pause to hear your thoughts in the conversation. Are we ready for an education remix? Are our schools not only efficient (manage costs well) and effective (produce positive teacher/student outcomes), but also innovative (create students ready to think in an inter-disciplinary world of people and ideas)? Jump in!

Microsoft Press Release: Microsoft and Toyota Announce Strategic Partnership on Next-Generation Telematics