TomTom's enlists Microsoft AI to reclaim wheel from Google Maps

TomTom’s is looking to arrest its smartphone-induced fall from grace as the ubiquitous top satnav provider by getting in on the AI game.

The company, which has suffered in recent years due to powerful, free and convenient navigation apps from Apple and Google, has teamed up with Microsoft on a conversational AI assistant for in-car use.

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The new assistant will enable drivers to “converse naturally with their vehicles” in order to control their in-car entertainment, directions and a host of the vehicle’s key systems. One can imagine things like climate, cruise control, volume and other tools will be voice controlled, as well as information about journey times, local amenities and more.

The new assistant uses Microsoft Azure’s OpenAI service which, naturally, includes access to the same ChatGPT and Large Language Models (LLMs) that power Microsoft’s Bing Search and Co-Pilot for Windows AI innovations.

The “fully integrated, AI-powered conversational automotive assistant” will offer “more sophisticated voice interaction,” TomTom says.

According to TomTom it’ll start making its way to the interfaces deployed by auto manufacturers as part of the existing Digital Cockpit tech, with the GPS specialist ensuring the car makers can brand the service as they wish. It’s not clear whether the service will also be available via the smartphone based services like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

“Together with Microsoft, our shared vision is to drive innovation with generative AI and provide our customers with even better solutions,” says Mike Schoofs, Chief Revenue Officer, TomTom in a press release. “Leveraging our navigation and technology expertise, we’re creating a groundbreaking new way for people to interact with their vehicles. With both companies integrating what they do best into one solution, we’re transforming the in-vehicle experience, enabling drivers to ask their car for anything and trust it will deliver.”

The announcement prefaces a showcase of the technology at the upcoming CES expo in Las Vegas in January. We’ll be keen to check that out as it might provide a way for TomTom to return to our vehicles as a key tool for drivers.