Dec 21, 2021 - Technology

What's next: a digital butler for your car

Illustration of light radiating out from a black car

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Your next car might well be able to read your mind, offering suggestions of where to go and what to do before you even ask it.

Why it matters: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are making vehicles smarter and safer than ever, and could potentially transform the relationship between driver and machine.

Driving the news: Cerence, a pioneer in vehicle voice-recognition, will be showing off an intuitive, AI-powered driving companion early next month at CES, the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

  • Its new Cerence Co-Pilot, announced Monday, is designed to anticipate the needs of drivers through AI and continuous learning — think of it as a butler for your car.
  • Instead of drivers telling the car what to do with traditional wake-up words like, "Hey Alexa" or "Hey Mercedes," Co-Pilot will proactively offer to perform actions before drivers even need to ask.

How it works: The AI is integrated with the car's sensors and data to understand what's going on inside the vehicle and around it.

  • Acting as the car's central brain, the technology analyzes input from a combination of voice, gaze, gesture and touch controls, along with driver preferences and real-time sensor data, to keep drivers informed and anticipate their desires.

For example, the system can suggest ordering and paying for a cup of coffee when the driver is a mile from their favorite coffee shop.

  • Or, it could recognize a maintenance issue and offer to set up a service appointment.
  • Knowing that the driver has a meeting 50 miles away tomorrow morning, Co-Pilot could suggest stopping for fuel today, even though the low-fuel warning light isn't on.
  • It can also deliver real-time information such as severe weather approaching and offer to put the car in the appropriate driving mode.

Yes, but: Co-Pilot can also act like a backseat driver, pointing out that rolling stop you did at the last intersection, for example.

  • You can control notifications, though, so the system will learn when you don't want to be bugged, Cerence CTO Prateek Kathpal tells Axios.

What to watch: The technology will debut next month on two unnamed models, Cerence says.

  • Cerence Co-Pilot is just a taste of the news about smart car technology expected at CES starting Jan. 3.

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