BMW aims to enhance driver-assist functions through research partnership with IBM

BMW Group and IBM announced last week that they will work together to explore how IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system can help create more intuitive driver support systems and personalise the driving experience.

Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will be tested at IBM’s Munich Watson IoT HQ by a team of BMW engineers working alongside IBM’s own team of technologists, developers and consultants.

Prototype solutions running on IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform are expected to help demonstrate how Watson can enable new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers.

“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,” explained Harriet Green, global head of IBM’s Watson IoT business. “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.”

According to IBM, Watson’s machine learning capabilities offer new opportunities for vehicles to learn about the preferences, needs and driving habits of their drivers over time, customising the driving experience accordingly and improving levels of comfort and safety.

Drivers will be able to ask questions about the vehicle in natural language while still being able to focus on the road. Information about the weather, route, traffic and vehicle status will also be available, allowing the system to make recommendations to the driver.

An IBM Institute for Business Value study, A New Relationship — People and Cars, found that cars are becoming a “moving data centre” with onboard sensors and computers that capture information about the car, its driver, occupants and surroundings. At the same time, conversational interfaces are enabling drivers to interact with their vehicles more naturally and, with machine learning, cars can get to know their drivers better and personalise the experience accordingly.

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