BMW Partners With IBM To Add Watson’s Cognitive Computing Capabilities To Its Cars – Forbes
Watch out Tesla and Google: the race for whom will build the car of the future is still far from over. German automakers are working hard to stay ahead of the pack and add new capabilities to their reliable, if sometimes unexciting, vehicles.
Back in September BMW, Audi and Mercedes announced the launch of a project aimed at helping vehicles communicate with each other and help the driver gain a better understanding of traffic conditions.
Today, BMW unveils yet another agreement, a partnership with American giant IBM.
Big Blue’s Watson AI technology will be at the core of this collaboration: a group of researchers will be tinkering with four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars located at IBM’s Munich IoT headquarter to develop “intelligent assistant functions”, as a joint press release reads.
Stripping away the technical lingo, what this ultimately boils down to is developing interfaces that will help drivers interact with these vehicles more naturally and actually have a “conversation” with them.
The instruction manual, for instance, will be ingested into Watson, so that drivers can ask questions about the vehicle in natural language while still being able to focus on the road. Using machine learning, the car will become familiar with your habits and provide suggestions on how to save fuel or adopt a safer driving style.
Much as it happens with other manufacturers’ solutions, it will also provide contextual updates about route, traffic and weather conditions.
So far so good. This paradigm fits perfectly well into the current transformation of the car into a ‘smartphone on wheels” as the Economist famously said. And it’s perfectly possible that, as IBM’s global head of the Watson IoT business claims, “while the car will remain a fixture in personal transportation, the driving experience will change more over the next decade than at any other time of the automobile’s existence.”
What is unclear at the moment, however, is the extent to which Watson’s technology could contribute to this transformation. Will it turn a car into an advanced artificially intelligent and self-aware entity, reminiscent of KITT, the highly sophisticated on-board computer envisioned in the 80’s Knight Rider TV series?
Or will it just provide some additional layers of insight to an increasingly intelligent machine? The answer lies probably somewhere in the middle. What BMW and IBM are really aiming at here, has nothing to do with replacing the driver, or creating a semi-omniscient artificial co-driver; rather it is focused on making sense of the vast amounts of data being produced by connected cars.
“Today’s vehicles have an average of 60-100 sensors on board – projected to reach as many as 200 sensors per car in the next few years,” Green tells me. “These sensors are producing vast amounts of data per second about the performance of the car, the environment around the car and the way the car is being driven.”
Making the best of the information available, Watson therefore could prove valuable in optimizing vehicle-to-vehicle communication (which could soon become mandatory in the US), adapting the car to a driver’s personal preferences, from seat height and position to the drivers’ favorite destinations, monitoring the status of the vehicle in order to diagnose and fix automatically any issue.