THE next-generation Holden Commodore could have a virtual buddy sitting in the car beside you that knows your every need. However, before you get too excited, it’s shaping up to be more of a marketing tool for the carmaker’s business partners than a helping hand.
General Motors, Holden’s US parent company, has announced it will soon start integrating Watson, the name given to a self-learning, internet-based help desk developed by computing giant IBM, into its cars.
Watson is good at linking bits of information together and presenting helpful answers. For instance, if your car is low on fuel, you don’t want to be stuck in traffic wasting it while you head to the nearest petrol station. Watson will be able to recognise this, look at the best possible route, map it out for you, and pre-pay for a splash-and-dash.
Likewise, if you always stop for a take-away coffee at a certain time each day, Watson will be smart enough to realise you’re a creature of habit and pre-order one for you.
Due in the US next year, the system will be linked to GM’s OnStar service that already provides in-car help for owners. Holden has previously tried an Aussie version of OnStar, called Holden Assist, but shelved it due to a low customer take-up.
“On average, people in the US spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimise their time,” Phil Abram, the executive director of GM Connected Products and Strategy said.
“By leveraging OnStar’s connectivity and combining it with the power of Watson, we’re looking to provide safer, simpler and better solutions to make our customers’ mobility experience more valuable and productive.”
However, GM has flagged the system will also be something of a door-to-door salesman.
“With the customer’s consent, Watson will learn the driver’s preferences, apply machine learning and sift through data to recognise patterns in their decisions and habits,” GM said.
“This information will allow brand and marketing professionals working with IBM and OnStar to deliver individualised location-based interactions that directly impact their target audiences.
“Companies in retail, fuel, hospitality, media and entertainment, restaurants and travel and transportation and more can use OnStar Go to build individualised mobile, in-vehicle experiences for a growing population of connected drivers that opt in.”
That means your car could interrupt you to suggest you stop at a certain restaurant, or suggest you call into a supermarket to pick up a packet of nappies if you haven’t bought any for a while.
GM has said Watson would be an opt-in feature – a nod to privacy and data security concerns raised by customers worried about what could happen with the data GM collects on them.
Can't get enough? Now read about how smartphone technology is changing the way we drive.