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BMW, IBM Team Up on Driver-Assist Tech

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【Summary】You’ve heard of driver-assist tech in cars and you’ve heard of IBM supercomputer Watson. Now, be prepared to think of Watson in a new light.

Original Timothy Healey    Dec 21, 2016 5:13 PM PT
BMW, IBM Team Up on Driver-Assist Tech

You've heard of driver-assist tech in cars and you've heard of IBM supercomputer Watson. Now, be prepared to think of Watson in a new light.

In addition to helping doctors treat cancer or beating super-smart human contestants on Jeopardy!, Watson will be working with BMW to improve the driver-assistance technology available in many modern automobiles.

The partnership between BMW engineers and IBM researchers will take place in Munich. They will connect four hybrid BMW i8s to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform with the intent "to demonstrate how Watson can enable new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers," IBM said in a statement today.

"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," Harriet Green, IBM global chief of the Watson Internet of Things, said in the statement.

"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," Green said.

Automakers are investing heavily in connected-car and autonomous-driving tech, and this is one more way in which BMW is trying to get ahead of its competition.

One feature that BMW is working on with IBM involves the i8's owner's manual. The manual will be uploaded into Watson, and drivers who have questions about their car can ask Watson via voice recognition and get answers back.

Additionally, Watson will be able to provide real-time weather and traffic updates, and even use those to adjust the route. It will also monitor a driver's behavior and be able to personalize the car's behavior and responses toward the said behavior in order to customize performance, safety and comfort.

"We will work together so that BMW drivers can benefit from Watson's machine learning capabilities," Niklaus Waser, the European head of the project for IBM, told Automotive News.

IBM is investing $200 million into the Munich facility and plans to work with health-care and electronics companies in addition to automotive companies. BMW is the first automotive company to work with IBM on this project, but Peugeot Citroen and General Motors have worked with IBM and Watson before.

BMW is probably not the only automaker that will work with IBM on this project in the near future.

"There is no reason why we should do this only with BMW, and BMW has not asked for exclusivity," Waser said to Automotive News.


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