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BMW Hooks Up With IBM Watson For AI Car Research

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Can I adjust your seat? BMW and Big Blue to apply artificial intelligence to future cars, with IBM Watson help

Car maker BMW has teamed up with IBM so that researchers from both firms can apply artificial intelligence (AI) to explore how cars will be driven in the future.

Specifically, IBM Watson will be integrated into a number of specially adapted BMW i8 hybrid sports cars, so the researchers can discover how Watson will enable a new more personalised driving experience in the years to come.

The development comes after the two firms said that the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming our relationship with the physical world.

BMW M6Cognitive Research

The IBM and BMW researchers will work out of Big Blue’s global headquarters for Watson Internet of Things (IoT) in Munich.

The Munich facility was opened in December 2015 and is home to over a 1,000 IBM developers, consultants, researchers and designers.

IBM says that its work with BMW represents the first in several new industry “collaboratories” located in the new Munich centre, where companies work with IBM experts to push the boundaries of what is possible with IoT.

As previously mentioned, the research is aiming to personalise the driving experience, and develop more intuitive driver support systems for cars of the future.

The idea is that AI will allow cars of the future to be installed with conversational interfaces coupled with machine learning, so effectively these future cars can get to know their drivers better.

For example, data could be gathered about the driver’s preferences, needs, and habits (seat positions, favourite destinations etc), so that the car can customise its driving experience to best suit the driver’s tastes.

The car could also be pre-programmed with the car’s manual, allowing the driver to ask questions about the vehicle in natural language or change settings, without having to fumble around with buttons or switches.

“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,” said Harriet Green, Global Head of IBM’s Watson IoT business. “With this agreement, our companies will work together to lay the foundations so that 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,” said Green.

Future Cars

Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will be located at the Munich Watson IoT HQ and will run on IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform to help demonstrate how Watson can enable new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers.

Another hope for this research partnership is to create car-based solutions that incorporates data from the Weather Company (an IBM business) as well as real-time, contextual updates about route, traffic and vehicle status.

Cars could also become self-healing, and if a fault develops the car itself could diagnose and fix the issue itself, without human help. Cars could also become more social, and connect with other vehicles on the road, as well as the world around them.

Another potential system is that AI-infused cars become self learning, so the vehicle can continuously learn and give advice based on the behaviour of the driver, passengers, and other vehicles.

All of this could lead to potentially self driving cars, as well as self-configuring cars, where the vehicle can adapt itself to a driver’s personal preferences.

Meanwhile earlier this week Google created a driverless car company called Waymo, signalling it is ready to forge a commercial roadmap with its autonomous car technology.

Quiz: What do you know about the Internet of Things?