Big Data

IBM Watson coming to BMW's i8 supercar

IBM and BMW recently announced that they would be joining forces in Munich, Germany, working together on future innovations for connected cars.

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Image: IBM

On Thursday, IBM announced that German automaker BMW would be partnering with them at their Internet of Things (IoT) HQ collaboratory in Munich, Germany. The pair will focus on the natural language capabilities of Watson, hoping to use cognitive computing to "personalise the driving experience" and improve driver support, according to a blog post.

The partnership is part of a greater $100 million investment in IBM's Watson IoT HQ in Munich, which isn't too far from BMW's Bavarian HQ, the post said. Engineers from both camps will work together on new, Watson-powered tools and services for connected vehicles.

Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will take up residence at the IBM IoT HQ as part of the deal. IBM's BlueMix cloud platform will act as the foundation for Watson's machine learning and IoT for Automotive to connect to the cars themselves. Watson learns the driver's behaviors, preferences, and habits, and can the modify or customize the driving experience as needed, the post said.

SEE: IBM Watson: The smart person's guide

"Got a question about how your i8 is performing? Ask your i8 just as you would talk to a friend, and your i8 will reply. Watson will learn the i8 owner's manual and with the natural language capabilities to be able to understand the driver's questions, he'll understand what you're asking and provide answers in a conversational style," the post said.

The move is an interesting approach to automotive tech, as IBM still seems to be skirting around the autonomous driving advances that are winning headlines. Instead, it seems that IBM is taking a complementary approach to making the car experience more contextual for the driver and riders. BMW, on the other hand, is planning to test autonomous vehicles in Munich in 2017.

"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," Harriet Green, global head of IBM's Watson IoT business, said in a press release.

Basically, the two companies are working on "conversational interfaces between cars and drivers," according to the release. At the risk of making an overly-obvious pop culture connection, think about it like KITT from Knight Rider. The goal is to also add Weather Company data for even more context, the release said.

This isn't the first time IBM has integrated Watson into a vehicle. In June, IBM integrated Watson in a similar way into Olli, a self-driving transport bus in Maryland. IBM Watson has also made its way into race cars as a way to help improve performance. And, with the US DOT's recent proposal for V2V communications, connected car technology is likely to become even more important.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. IBM is partnering with BMW in Munich to work on new solutions for connected cars.
  2. Four BMW i8 supercars will come to IBM's IoT headquarters, where they will receive IBM Watson capabilities and will be able to answer questions and provide context for the driver.
  3. IBM made a similar move with Watson with a self-driving bus called Olli, and seems to be targeting the driver experience above self-driving technology.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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