STARTUP: Digital copilot thinks along with you

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Self-driving cars are coming—that much is certain. But while we wait for them to get here, human drivers are increasingly fighting with digital “distractions” from smartphones and the like. An artificially intelligent copilot promises support.
New companies that deal with artificial intelligence (AI) are popping up around the world. When you enter “artificial intelligence” at Angel, it currently lists 1,663 start-ups and 2,600 investors in the sector. Research related to autonomous cars in particular is giving AI a special boost and, in some cases, is giving rise to astronomical takeover prices among start-ups. But it will still take several years before you can relax in your car sipping an aperitif while you scroll through your music selection to find suitable background music for a ride along the coast in southern France.

Digital copilot instead of a digital driver

Until then, a digital copilot developed by the startup German Autolabs in Berlin will ensure that your hands stay on the wheel. Services such as WhatsApp or e-mail can be controlled by voice. And information always comes at the right time. As a result, traffic jams are the perfect place to deal with e-mails, whereas speeding along in the fast lane doesn’t really allow for any distractions, no matter how important, including those that are voice controlled.

Like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s OK and Apple’s Siri, the “copilot” understands you using intelligent, semantic speech recognition—a highly complex task that involves much more than recognizing spoken words. And more than comprehending their meaning and context. After that, the actual information needs to be found and then prepared. That alone calls for a gigantic amount of computing power, which is available in the cloud as well as the vehicle.

Strong competition on a market worth billions

If it were up to the founders, no car would be without a digital copilot—regardless of make and age—just like GPS ten years ago. With 500 million cars in Europe and North America alone, somehow that sounds like a market worth billions. That is also what Target Partners and several business angels thought, which is why they invested two million euros in the Berlin-based startup before it launched. Although it’s founders aren’t exactly “new” to the game.

Holger G. Weiss and Patrick Weigert have several years of experience in the mobility sector. Among other things, they worked for the digital card and navigation-system manufacturer HERE, which Audi, BMW and Daimler purchased for nearly 3 billion euros last year.

Now an interdisciplinary team of developers, UX/UI designers, product managers and product designers at German Autolabs in Berlin is combining human interaction models with artificial intelligence. The objective is to expand the “digital lives” of today’s consumers to also include their cars. Given solutions such as Apple CarPlay with Siri or Google Android Auto with the Google Assistant, there is no shortage of competition. Add to that the carmakers’ “assistants”. It will be interesting to see how things unfold. The first product is expected next year.

Kirobo Mini from Toyota.

Not all digital co-pilots are as cute as the Kirobo Mini from Toyota. (Image: Toyota).