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BMW working with IBM to integrate Watson AI into vehicles

Thu 15 Dec 2016

IBM has announced a collaboration with the BMW group to develop new potential interfaces for its Watson AI product into vehicles.

The agreement will see the car manufacturer relocating a group of its researchers and engineers to the IBM headquarters for Watson IoT in Munich, with the scope of exploring new ‘intelligent assistant’ functions for the BMW range.

Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will also take up residence at the Munich centre, as lab fodder prototype Watson-based experiments to run on IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform. According to today’s release, the objective is the development of new ‘conversational interfaces’ between cars and drivers.

The i8’s manual will be integrated into Watson’s database for the purpose of the experiments, allowing drivers to ask natural language questions and hope to receive a better response than the commonly-lamented AI offer to ‘look it up on the web for you’.

The main brunt of the effort appears to be training Watson to learn about an individual new driver, as opposed to the massive databases currently being compiled by Uber, Tesla and Google, which are looking to derive conclusions and solutions from aggregated, average behaviour from a large pool of drivers.

Investigated solutions will also integrate live data from IBM’s own The Weather Company – a rare and advantageous resource for a skunkworks project of this nature.

Harriet Greene, the Global Head of IBM’s Watson IoT’s business concern, commented:

“Watson is transforming how people interact with the physical world – helping to create safer, more efficient and personal experiences at home, at work and on the road… With this agreement, our companies will work together to lay the foundations so that BMW’s drivers can benefit from Watson’s conversational and machine learning capabilities. Our insight shows that 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.”

It’s difficult to tell if the reference to ‘conversation’ is figurative or literal. Since chatting with other passengers is estimated to be high in the top five causes of car accidents, the next five years of increasingly ‘assistant’-oriented motoring innovations may find manufacturers needing to defend use cases of the same speech-driven interfaces in vehicle environments as are currently being pushed out by the major tech firms; Amazon, Google and Apple have all made great commercial in-roads in 2016 in terms of zero-GUI interface platforms.

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AI IBM news research self-driving cars transport
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