Traditional automakers, many of whom ushered in an era of incredible disruption nearly a century ago, now face disruption themselves from four modern forces -- connected, autonomous, shared and electric cars. The infrastructure and scale required to build a connected car is incredibly complicated, expensive and resource intensive. At its core, it's a software challenge, and a chief obstacle for these brands is integrating the complex cloud technology required to deliver next-generation driving experiences. Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we announced the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, a set of services built on the Microsoft Azure cloud and designed to empower auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences. This is not an in-car operating system or a "finished product;" it's a living, agile platform that starts with the cloud as the foundation and aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities.
Earlier this year, GM officially launched a program called Maven that gives people a way to earn extra money by renting out their cars. According to TechCrunch, though, the automaker plans to expand the peer-to-peer car-sharing program's reach and open it to vehicles from its competitors. GM Urban Mobility and Maven VP Julia Steyn has announced at the UBS Global Technology Conference that Maven will start accepting rival vehicles to the platform by mid-2019. It's not entirely clear if Maven will welcome cars from all automakers, but it sounds like at least some Ford and Tesla models will be. In addition, GM will open the platform up to micro-fleet entrepreneurs and will also expand it to Canada and other international markets.
Japan's dominant carmaker and its No. 2 wireless provider are gaining ground in the global race to establish a platform for cars that connect to wireless networks, a key milestone on the path to autonomous driving. KDDI Corp.'s auto connectivity platform, developed with Toyota Motor Corp., has signed on several other Japanese carmakers to test and deploy the technology, Keiichi Mori, KDDI's head of "internet of things" projects, said in an interview in Tokyo. He declined to name the new partners because they haven't been formally announced. Toyota and KDDI have developed a data communications module that works around the world, allowing its vehicles to connect to wireless networks without relying on global roaming services. Rival carmakers are forming similar partnerships with telecom and technology companies as they compete to provide drivers with in-car connectivity and develop vehicles that avoid accidents and, eventually, drive themselves.
Using Alexa in your car is getting more ubiquitous. Ford, Hyundai and Volkswagen all have plans for Amazon's voice control tech, and third parties like Anker, Panasonic, Garmin and Logitech have their own strategy to help you use Alexa while you drive. Now, Toyota has plans to include Amazon's intelligent assistant in select Toyota and Lexus vehicles starting this year. The company also announced at CES that more models will include Alexa via the Toyota Entune and Lexus Enform in-car app systems in 2019.
U.S. sales at General Motors and Ford each fell about 5% last month, but the three largest Japanese automakers reported sales increases. The results early Monday could counter analyst predictions that sales will fall in June for the sixth straight month. Analysts expect sales to fall from 2% to 4% in June, the sixth straight month of declines. That means first-half sales could be negative for the first time since 2009. GM says its sales dropped 4.7%, while Ford sales declined 5.1%.