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Microsoft's awesome voice-activated assistant is coming to cars

Microsoft has made several attempts over the year to get into your car with units like the Sync entertainment system used in many Fords. While its efforts have steadily improved, it hasn't quite taken over the industry.

Part of the reason is that cars are developed years in advance, and they aren't very easy to upgrade. So the technology is going to be old as soon as you get it, and goes even more out of date very quickly. Dedicated car units just can't keep up with standard computers, and especially not with smartphones and tablets.

That's why Apple and Google took a different approach for their CarPlay and Android Auto systems. Instead of having a built-in computer, your car links up with your smartphone and uses it to power the system. The only thing the car has to do is display the information in a road-friendly way.

Microsoft revealed last year that it's working on a similar system. Now it's taking that concept to the next level by integrating Cortana.

If you've using Windows 10 or Windows Phone 8.1 you probably know the Cortana personal digital assistant. She's Microsoft's answer to Siri, Google Now and Amazon Echo. In fact, she'll be available on Android and Apple gadgets soon, which should be interesting.

Cortana responds to voice commands to launch searches and open programs. She'll answer your question, gather information she thinks you want to know, and more. Despite some privacy concerns, she is good at what she does.

In Microsoft's new system, Cortana is front and center, literally. Her interface is going to be projected on the car's windshield, as well as the screen on the center console. This lets you get directions, listen to music, make restaurant reservations and more with just your voice, and without taking your eyes off the road.

Microsoft's system is going to use Mirrorlink, which is a growing car standard for linking up gadgets to a car. That, combined with Cortana being available on Apple and Android gadgets, could mean Microsoft is angling to make a universal system. It makes sense given that relatively few people own Windows Phones.

If that's the case, car manufacturers could opt for installing Microsoft's one system over having to include both CarPlay and Android Auto in every automobile. It could end up being a smart move on Microsoft's part.

Does Cortana in your car sound like something you'd use, or is it just another distraction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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