Watson at the Wheel: How IBM plans to power your drive

IBM Watson at the wheel
“It’s the biggest reinvention going on since the invention of the wheel.”

That’s the general consensus of pretty much everyone in the automotive industry, but those specific words came from David Taylor, director of connected services for IBM-partner Panasonic. Taylor joined an IBM panel at the Detroit Auto Show to highlight the complete reinvention of the supply chain, business model, and more that is currently underway in the industry. Even traffic management might change, Taylor noted.

And IBM wants to be a part of it. Well, IBM wants Watson to be a part of it. The same technology that mastered chess and Jeopardy may someday be your co-pilot. Strap on that seatbelt, driving’s about to get interesting.

The powerhouse technology company unveiled its vision of the self-driving, self-enabling, connected car at the 2016 NAIAS show Tuesday morning through a video showing how Watson might be built into the dashboard.

In the video, a man cruises along in a vehicle while chit-chatting with Watson, and Watson appears mainly to put the info back in infotainment. Watson controls the music system, offering insight on the artists currently playing — where they gigged last and what music was listened to recently — guidance about steering based on the weather, advice about nearby shopping, and so on. The computer is shown having a casual conversation with the driver, responding naturally with plain-spoken insights.

Watson wouldn’t control any critical subsystems such as steering, collision avoidance, and so on, says IBM. This is likely because the system is entirely cloud-based: Lose connectivity and you’d be likely to drift into the car next to you. The entire system would hinge heavily on in-car connectivity, something AT&T and Verizon have been pushing heavily in recent years. Thanks to those companies — and notably, GM’s OnStar program — 4G connections are growing common in cars. Still, even with a solid connection, some features clearly must remain baked directly into the vehicle.

But given Watson’s phenomenal natural language processing skills, it seems like a solid fit for the space, far smarter and more capable than the phone-sharing features from Apple and Google or the limited voice-recognition in today’s vehicles.

Adam Steinberg, who leads IBM’s cognitive solutions practice, told Digital Trends that his company is talking with numerous partners, though he declined to identify any specifics or offer a timeline for when such functionality might become a reality. While IBM is prepared to go to market with the technology today, he said, it’s clearly visionary. Yet current in-car systems are capable of supporting it, he added, despite the heavy processing power required by Watson.

To call voice-commands and voice-recognition in today’s vehicles limited does a disservice to limits. Many consumers likely have tried the features, and most have probably put it aside. Beyond “Call Mom,” the systems simply aren’t very capable. Watson could change that, letting someone ask questions and explore information in real time. Someday, anyway.

IBM also used the venue to reveal the results of a new survey about how consumers plan to use vehicles over the next 10 years. The survey of more than 16,000 people in 16 different countries, titled “A New Relationship — People and Cars,” revealed a high level of interest not just in self-driving but self-enabling cars: vehicles that can learn, heal, drive, and socialize.”

These capabilities include autonomous, self-driving cars that can be fixed without human intervention, as well as the implementation of cognitive computing to learn and assimilate to the driver’s behaviors, to the vehicle itself, and to the surrounding environment.

Cars

Many adults believe fully self-driving cars are already traversing U.S. highways

The American Automobile Association tested cars with features such as lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control and found them lacking in real-world conditions. Forty percent of surveyed U.S. adults think self-driving cars exist now.
Cars

Ford teams up with Walmart to study consumer response to autonomous delivery

Last week it was Ford and VW, and this week Ford and Walmart are signaling a desire to work together on autonomous vehicles solutions. Ford and the giant retailer will study consumer reactions to self-driving delivery vehicles.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Cars

Land Rover shows its artsy side by previewing the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover made life-sized wire sculptures to preview the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. The all-new SUV will make its debut during a private event held in London on November 22, and deliveries will begin in 2019.
Deals

These headlights have 4 color settings to help save lives under all conditions

Boslla headlights are an easy-to-install solution to achieve all-weather lighting for your vehicle. After a quick ten-minute install, these lights have up to four settings to get you through anything.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Cars

The DBX SUV will go where no Aston Martin has gone before

When it launches in 2019, the Aston Martin DBX will be the British automaker's first SUV. In the meantime, camouflaged DBX prototypes will undergo strenuous testing around the world.
Cars

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.
Cars

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.
Cars

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.
Cars

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.
DT Daily

DT Daily: Waymo’s driverless cars, ‘Fallout 76’ tips, and Racella

In today's episode of DT Daily, we discuss Waymo's foray into the ridesharing sector, along with various tips for making the most of the recently launched Fallout 76. We also sit down with singer Racella to chat about her new EP, Waves.
Cars

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.