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Toyota forms Toyota Connected, builds data science on Microsoft Azure

Toyota creates a new unit run by its North America CIO to align services, user experience, analytics and data science.

Toyota said it will launch a separate unit called Toyota Connected to focus on user experience, product development and data science via Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

The move comes as many automakers are forming units to focus on mobility services, technology applications, analytics and services. In March, Ford created Ford Smart Mobility with the aim of building out services to go along with its vehicles.

According to Toyota, Toyota Connected will "support a broad range of consumer-, business- and government- facing initiatives." Toyota Connected's CEO will be Zack Hicks, who is Toyota Motor North America's chief information officer.

As for the analytics part of the equation, Toyota Connected will use Microsoft Azure as its data science platform and develop predictive and contextual services. Toyota said its goal will be to "humanize the driving experience while pushing the technology into the background." Toyota and Microsoft are already partners on many fronts.

Also see: Microsoft refines auto strategy with productivity, cloud twist | Toyota leads automaker pack adopting Ford's open source entertainment software | Toyota Research Institute adds Jaybridge engineering team | Toyota announces all-star leadership for $1B Research Institute | CNET Roadshow

For Microsoft, the Toyota win is a key part of its strategy to attract automakers. Microsoft initially aimed to be the operating system of the auto cockpit, but now sees itself as a back-end cloud provider and enabler of business model shifts. There's a good reason for that: The money and profit margins are on the back-end and Microsoft gains more by being a neutral tech provider to the auto industry relative to Google and Apple, two companies either pursuing autos or rumored to be developing cars.

Toyota Connected will be based in Plano, TX and initially focus on delivering services and analytics via the company's food chain. Toyota will consolidate its data center management, analytics and services development under Toyota Connected. Toyota Connected will also run in-car services, telematics, Internet of things efforts, safety, smart city integration and data sharing across the Toyota ecosystem.

According to Toyota, Microsoft engineers will work with Toyota Connected at its new facilities and support its data science efforts.