Love your car? Get ready to say goodbye: Soon it will be obsolete. We’re moving far beyond cars we drive to cars that drive us. But it won’t stop there. In the next decade, cars will be highly cognitive, sophisticated mobility machines powered by AI. They will serve as drivers, navigators, and personal robots that assist us with everything we do.
Cars of the future will learn, understand, and be able to reason and make informed, data-driven decisions that correlate the reams of data they collect on us — their owners and riders — with data on transportation, traffic, other automobiles, and a whole range of other sources. Far from seeming like a novelty, these cars will become vital partners in our lives and jobs, a third hub as important as our homes and workspaces. They will be cognitively linked to our lives and needs — physically, mentally, and emotionally too.
Here’s a look at five ways they’re going to change our lives:
We will depend on cars more than cars depend on us: Many cars today feature elementary-level AI technologies such as image recognition and national language processing — which translates human language and responds by providing a whole range of services. Your car will know what coffee to order based on your mood and time of day, for instance. It will also be self-healing, self-configuring, self-learning, and self-integrating – able to analyze and predict the maintenance it needs, to acquire knowledge in order to optimize its own performance, and be able to seamlessly integrate with the rest of the Internet of Things. It will also be able to carry on conversations with you, other cars, and more. It will also be fully involved in every aspect of your life and work. If you think you depend on your car now, just wait. On the other hand, all those “self-“ functions mean they won’t need us as much as we need them.
We’ll want cars for different reasons. These days, we’re still focusing on the hardware: style, power, reliability. But these won’t be the primary criteria for cars of the future. We’ll want to know the ability of the car to learn and communicate. We’ll consider a car’s personalization functions, integrated driving experience, and learning. We’ll want cars that can adjust the interior space to our preferences, from temperature settings to music to the colors of the interior, and at the same time, learns where and when it should drive to specific places based on our own patterns and habits. Car design will be more like designing a contextual room for living, working, adventuring, shopping, relaxing, enjoying, etc. Virtual reality and augmented reality will combine a travel experience with anything you want, e.g. off-roading on the way to work. The bottom line: the car will be an experience that goes far beyond the act of moving through space.
We may not even recognize them as cars. While we don’t know exactly what cars will look like in the coming decades, consider the design of an old-fashioned phone — with receiver and base — versus a smartphone. Will cars have four wheels? Headlights? Mirrors A steering wheel or pedals? And will we still call them cars? Consider the smart device we now use more than landlines. We may still call them “phones,” but often, with additional adjectives: “cell phone,” “mobile phone,” or by their brand name. Cars may similarly merit additional distinctions. We may decide they should be known as “smartcars,” or “mobility assistants,” or “capsules.”
We will love them — and we may feel like they love us. A cognitive vehicle is not just a computer, and it’s not just a voice-activated helper in the guise of Siri or Alexa. It’s a highly personalized interface that connects to our very identity. It learns it: our habits, our preferences, our interests. And it strives to improve its own performance with each task. Driven by data, it does. But it may be so well attuned to us, and so completely integrated into our lives, that we can’t really think of it as an “it.” When we step into its interior, it greets us. It reads our moods and makes certain determinations. A hard day may prompt it to play soothing music, make a beeline for the gym, or meander home taking the scenic route. We don’t know yet — and for each of us it may be different. The essence of a highly cognitive personal experience is that it’s personal. Yet another reason it may be hard to change models.
We’re only beginning to understand the implications of cognitive automobiles. But one thing is clear: how they function and how safe they are depends entirely on how we manage our own identities and our own data. And if we do it right, we’ll be able to trust our car in ways we never imagined.
Stephen Perun is Offering Management Lead for Automotive and Connected Vehicles for IBM’s Watson IoT Business Unit and has worked with Automotive and Electronics clients for 25+ years. Dr. Sebastian Wedeniwski is a Chief Technology Strategist at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, and was an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Global Industrial Sector, and part of the IBM Research & Development Laboratory, Germany. He is a trained mathematician and scientist. Their new book is My Cognitive autoMOBILE Life: Digital Divorce from a Cognitive Personal Assistant.