With its ‘Beyond’ initiative, Audi wants to be a thought leader in AI

audi beyond initiative techday smart factory
Audi wants to be a big player in artificial intelligence but perhaps not in the way you’d expect.

At the AI for Good Global Summit, a United Nations-hosted congress on the development of AI for humanity’s benefit, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler announced the company’s new Beyond initiative, which aims to bring together a network of experts to explore the social implications of AI in the automotive industry and working world.

“AI will fundamentally change our lives and working world,” Stadler said at a press briefing in Geneva. “It’s up to all of us to make sure AI is used to benefit society.”

For the past two years, Audi has been developing a network of thought leaders, including philosophers, lawyers, psychologists, and computer scientists. A workshop brought together Audi engineers and researchers from institutions like MIT and Oxford.

From this workshop, the company has identified two areas to focus its energy — the social effects of autonomous driving and the future of work.

“[Autonomous driving] will be the biggest transformation in our industry,” Stadler said. With that in mind, policymakers, programmers, ethicists, and car manufacturers will have to collaborate to make sure these machines act in ways that are consistent with our values as persons and as a society.

“People will have to trust,” Stadler said. “Without trust there is no market.”

Stadler himself has engaged with robots and AI to develop his own trust in them, including a car ride with the humanoid Sophia, developed by Hanson Robotics.

He added: “If we don’t bring trust to society, society won’t accept technologies.”

Audi is also actively developing autonomous driving systems, which the company separates into five levels, each offering a different degree of autonomy. Stadler suggested the company’s A8 is equipped with “level three” autonomy and that the company aims to test level five — i.e. fully autonomous — prototypes by 2020. These fully autonomous vehicles would give passengers the luxury to relax, work, or do whatever they wish.

“Time is the most precious good in our future,” Stadler said. “If we’re able to give that back to our customer …we ’re talking about a premium user experience.”

In the factory, Audi hopes to develop an approach to new technologies that help workers perform their tasks more safely and efficiently, rather than building machines that put people out of work. That means smarter factories with humans and machines working in tandem.

“At Audi we think human-machine interfaces should support employees,” he said. Companies like Hyundai are currently entering the field, developing exoskeletons to help factory workers carry heavy weight.

Despite many people’s concern about automation and job loss, Stadler dismissed the issue, suggesting that, as in industrial revolutions of the past, emerging technologies will shift rather than steal jobs.

“We shouldn’t talk about a fear that people will lose their jobs,” he said. “There will be different jobs available.”

Moving forward, it’s not clear how Audi will implement the Beyond Initiative — Stadler emphasized the project’s aim to develop an “attitude” related to AI implementation and tiptoed around questions about Audi’s willingness to share its AI insights — but the company plans to partner with at least two experts to inform the development of its technologies, according to a representative.

Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…

Peloton’s tech lets truckers play follow the leader to boost fuel economy

Peloton Technology can help semi trucks save fuel by running close together on the highway. Using short-range wireless communications, the trucks get a kind of super cruise control.

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.

Humans will accompany autonomous shuttles as they take over our cities

Autonomous shuttles could become the first widespread, real-world application of level-five autonomous technology. They won't be entirely human-less, though. Human intervention could keep the shuttles safe and boost consumer acceptance.

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.