BMW is putting IBM’s Watson AI in the passenger seat

The BMW i8 is already one of the most futuristic-looking cars on the road, but it’s about to get more innovative inside, too. BMW has just announced a brand-new tech collaboration with IBM, which will see the tech giant’s Watson AI tested in four of BMW’s hybrid sports cars. The project will see BMW engineers and IBM researchers work together in Germany, as both IBM and BMW have research facilities in Munich.

The project aims to make driving assistance and information more personalised and intuitive – and Watson looks to be the perfect candidate for the job. IBM’s powerful AI should make the car’s existing systems much easier to use, and BMW has already given a few examples of how it could work. The i8’s manual will be by Watson, so drivers will be able to enquire about vehicle information in natural language, rather than select phrases. In the same way, BMW and IBM want the Watson-fitted i8 to provide updates on everything from fuel levels to traffic updates in a simple, easy way.

However, Watson’s machine learning will have another benefit, too: personalisation. By gradually learning the routes, language and needs of a driver, Watson will be able to deliver the right amount of information almost before it’s needed.
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“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.”

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A continuing trend

As cars become more advanced, carmakers are looking at ways of making their technology more accessible – and IBM’s Watson could be great way of doing it. In the future, cars will be able to offer more information to the driver than ever, and the main differentiator between carmakers will be how that information is delivered.

In 2016, brands such as Tesla use large touchscreens and heads-up displays to display information, but with more sensors on every car, connected systems and autonomous driving on the way, drivers are at risk of being overloaded with info. A digital assistant such as Watson could draw on and harness that power, making driving safer – but also more informed. 

BMW also says the i8 will also have access to an IBM-owned connected service Weather Company, although it remains to be seen where that fits in with BMW’s existing HERE maps partnership with Daimler and Audi. It’s possible BMW’s of the future will use connected data provided by Nokia HERE maps, and simply use Watson as an added layer for better interaction.

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