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IBM’s Watson makes a move into self-driving cars with Olli

IBM today took the wraps off its first big foray into the world of self-driving cars, not as the driver of them, but as the brain behind making your self-driving journey a little more interesting.

IBM Watson, the company’s AI platform, is powering services in Olli — an electric-powered vehicle that can carry up to 12 people designed by Local Motors, a car maker based out of Arizona that uses newer technologies like 3D printing to bring down the cost of making cars on a low-volume basis.

The cars will start operations first in Washington, DC, before expanding to deployments in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas later this year. IBM says Miami-Dade County will run a pilot to transport people around Miami using these autonomous vehicles.

 

Local Motors and IBM, along with Intel, have worked together before, specifically on its Rally Fighter concept car. It looks like Olli might be the first commercial product that has resulted from the partnership.

Olli will be using a special version of Watson aimed at automotive applications and it is not fully powering the car’s self-driving features. Instead it’s aimed at “improving the passenger experience,” according to a statement from IBM.

“IBM technology, including IBM Watson or IBM Watson IoT technology, does not control, navigate or drive Olli. Rather, the IBM Watson capabilities of Olli will help to improve the passenger experience and allow natural interaction with the vehicle,” the company said.

While companies as diverse as tech giants like Google, as well as auto giants like GM, are all laying down bets on self-driving vehicle strategies, it’s interesting that IBM — one of the world’s biggest and most iconic technology companies, and home to an AI platform (Watson) that is extending into so many different areas of life — is not doing more to develop the technology that will power the driving of these vehicles.

Or, at least, it is not publicly discussing anything like that at this point. When we first got wind of this deal back in January, we’d heard it involved IBM working on self-driving technology, although we didn’t hear more beyond that. IBM on a more wider scale has been putting itself in front of the car industry by doing things like partnering with and sponsoring the organization that runs the big auto show in Detroit in January.

Local Motors, another partner of IBM, says it sees Olli as its first step, which could be a clue into what will come next:

“Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue,” John B. Rogers, co-founder of Local Motors, said in a statement. “Olli with Watson acts as our entry into the world of self-driving vehicles, something we’ve been quietly working on with our co-creative community for the past year. We are now ready to accelerate the adoption of this technology and apply it to nearly every vehicle in our current portfolio and those in the very near future. I’m thrilled to see what our open community will do with the latest in advanced vehicle technology.”

There are four Watson APIs that Olli will use: Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, Entity Extraction and Text to Speech, and among the functions that the vehicle will be able to perform as a result include analyzing high volumes of transportation data from 30+ sensors on the vehicle.

“Passengers will be able to interact conversationally with Olli while traveling from point A to point B,” IBM says, “discussing topics about how the vehicle works, where they are going, and why Olli is making specific driving decisions.” Other features will be asking Olli for suggestions of restaurants to eat or local landmarks. But not driving itself.

“IBM is excited to work with Local Motors to infuse IBM Watson IoT cognitive computing capabilities into Olli, exploring the art of what’s possible in a world of self-driving vehicles and providing a unique, personalized experience for every passenger while helping to revolutionize the future of transportation for years to come,” said Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, Commerce & Education, in a statement.

“Improving the sustainability of local transportation networks as part of a wider goal to create more vibrant, livable, sustainable cities within Miami-Dade County, and improve the quality of life for residents is our top priority,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, in a statement. “We must do more to improve transit and mobility in our community and the deployment of autonomous vehicles is a big step in the right direction.”

将来有一天,载你上班的公交车将会知道你什么时候有空喝咖啡,什么时候没空。至少IBM和汽车设计公司Local Motors将会让你相信这一点。

周 四,这两家公司在马里兰州国家海港首次推出了一款新的无人驾驶电动汽车,名为Olli。这辆智能汽车,实际上是一辆小型公交车,能够一次搭载12人。它使 用了IBM的“沃特森”超级电脑,可从多个源头大量收集周围环境的数据。因此,这辆汽车非常智能,甚至可以回答乘客提出的问题以及向环境学习。

例如,如果你经常乘坐这辆公交车,那么它将会明白你每天早上上班常走的路线。如果你有一天来迟了——或者沃特森利用天气数据了解到可能会下雨,或者交通将会变得越来越拥堵——Olli可能会提醒你没有时间喝咖啡了。如果你问它什么时候可以到达目的地,它也会回答你。

IBM发布的新闻通讯稿称,在今年暑期,从本周四开始,这辆智能公交车将会在“指定的时间”在国家海港面向公众开放。今年晚些时候,这辆智能公交车还会部署到佛罗里达州的迈阿密•戴德县和拉斯维加斯。

从 某种意义上来说,这辆汽车代表了未来驾驶的发展方向。专家称,现在的私家车将变得不再必要,因为在全球范围内有越来越多的人跨入了中产阶级,并搬到了城市 中心。作为私家车的替代品,小型智能公交车将能够自动挑选最高效的行车路线,并将乘客送到他们的目的地附近。这有助于缓解交通拥堵状况,减轻环境压力。

“这将是一场革命。”Local Motors公司的CEO杰伊•罗杰斯(Jay Rogers)说,“路上私家车太多显然是不行的。”

这辆未来公交车由超级电脑“沃特森”指挥

关于谷歌(微博)无人驾驶汽车的话题人们已谈论了很多。但是,罗杰斯称,这个科技巨头的商业模式存在问题。

“谷歌并不生产汽车。”他解释说。当然,这种说法严格来说并不准确,因为谷歌打造了自己的无人驾驶汽车原型。现在,谷歌正在与传统汽车制造商(例如菲亚特克莱斯勒)合作,让其无人驾驶汽车公开上路。

但是,无人驾驶汽车并非在每个州都是合法的。因此,汽车制造商在这方面投入的资源可能会有所克制。

“对 于不能在任何地方都能够卖的汽车,像菲亚特克莱斯勒这样的公司是不会生产的。”罗杰斯说。他相信,Local Motors公司非常敏捷,一定会成为行业领导者。在2015年,该公司设计了Olli;然后在今年3月,它正式批准了这个项目。现在,该公司与IBM一 起合作开发的智能汽车已开马里兰州运行。

当然了,Olli的普及还有很长的路要走。但是,罗杰斯称,Local Motors公司的主要障碍是立法,而不是技术。他们已准备好为任何需要的城市生产和投放智能汽车。

至于IBM,Olli让它有了机会进一步开发沃特森,影响人们悲惨的上下班路程。未来的汽车将不断地与互联网交流,获取有关天气、交通甚至乘客健康的信息。

“我 们希望弄清楚是否有乘客因为交通状况或其他事情而感到紧张不安。”IBM物联网部门的副总裁布雷特•格林斯坦(Bret Greenstein)说,“我们是否可以适当地调整车内光线,缓解乘客压力呢?我不是说我们正在研究这个问题,但是这肯定是我们的未来发展方向。”

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