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BMW, IBM in joint efforts to utilise Watson computing to design and build future cars

16 December 2016

BMW and IBM yesterday revealed that they were in joint efforts to utilise Watson cognitive computing to design and build cars of the future.

Under the agreement, the BMW Group would move a team of researchers to IBM's global headquarters for Watson Internet of Things in Munich. The companies would work to explore ways to improve intelligent assistant functions for drivers.

To advance its automotive research and demonstrate the possibilities of Watson IoT technologies to clients, IBM would locate 4 BMW i8 hybrid sports cars at its Munich Watson IoT HQ. Prototype solutions which would be run on IBM's Bluemix cloud platform would help demonstrate how Watson could support new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers.

According to IBM, Watson's machine learning capabilities would open new ways for vehicles to learn about the preferences, needs and driving habits of their drivers over time for customising the driving experience accordingly.

The car's manual would be integrated into Watson so that drivers could ask  questions about the vehicle in natural language while still being able to focus on the road. The solution would also aim to incorporate data from the Weather Company (an IBM business) as also real-time, contextual updates about route, traffic and vehicle status so as to enrich the driving experience and make recommendations to the driver.  

The deal between the two companies would also involve IBM hacking four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars at its Munich Watson IoT HQ. These would be turned into prototype solutions that would run on IBM's Bluemix cloud platform.

According to commentators, although there were a lot of efforts ongoing currently in the industry to build autonomous (self-driving) cars, this was something different. It was more about figuring out the best way of building systems in vehicles to help make them work better, whether or not they were being driven by humans.

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