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I’ll start with this obvious observation: today’s auto makers – and the companies that work with them – are all grappling with ever-growing customer expectations, rapid technology advancements, and changing industry boundaries.
Electric and autonomous vehicles are driving new products and new ways of thinking. While electric cars are in most markets today, autonomy is, realistically, 10 to 15 years away. But each has a powerful effect on the car industry and the global economy. Consider that gasoline is half of global oil demand; what happens when that demand decreases?
From a societal point of view, autonomous vehicles hold the enormous promise of reducing auto deaths. Right now, 1.3 million people die each year in car accidents. These self-driving vehicles could dramatically change how we all live and work.
Next up: meeting customer expectations
Next, let’s look at customer expectations. Consumers are more comfortable demanding a personalized experience from all their products – including cars. And with today’s AI-based technology, they will soon have access to unique experiences, tailored to their preferences and previous experiences, and based on what their cars learn about them.
What makes all this so interesting are the incredible advances in natural language processing (NLP) in the past eight years. There is, in fact, an intersection between the seismic industry changes in automotive, and NLP-based offerings. And when one considers the ways this might play out, it’s apparent that there are massive strategic incentives for automakers to move from being a “manufacturer of vehicles” to the owner of the vehicle platform that interacts with its users.
Simply put, mobile phones are to the vehicles of today as iPhones are to the vehicles of tomorrow.
And that’s a great opportunity for automotive OEMs. Because the iPhone is known for three things: incredible loyalty and engagement, customized experiences based on the deep integration of software and hardware, and privacy.
Beyond “command and control” with Watson Assistant
Of course, not every OEM or tier one supplier can build an iPhone on wheels. But here’s what they can do: add Watson Assistant to their offering. Recently announced, Watson Assistant is a new AI assistant designed for business.
We’ve taken the solution one step further with Watson Assistant for Automotive. This specialized solution delivers an industry-specific framework for OEMs. With it, they can deliver game-changing experiences and interactions to their drivers.
With Watson Assistant, a car maker or one of its partners can deliver an in-vehicle digital assistant that offers more than just “command and control” to drivers.
Instead, this assistant listens and continually learns from each interaction with the driver. It can even proactively initiate a conversation if the driver isn’t paying attention. The OEM can then take those learnings to constantly improve the services they provide, identify new revenue opportunities and differentiate themselves from the competition. And of course, all of this is totally private; it’s not IBM’s data, it’s our clients’. It’s theirs to use in service of their customers.
“Where can I get a cup of coffee?”
This approach is unique in the market, both technically and commercially. Let’s take the question, “Where can I get a cup of coffee?”
Other assistants may use interactions to improve their platform, learn about a market or consumer, or recommend a location that’s been auctioned off to become the default response rather than the preferred one. But with Watson Assistant for Automotive, we guide, but never restrict the response. That means the answer can be tailored to align with previous learnings, user taste, preferences and OEM business strategy. If the average driver spends 280 hours in a car each year, imagine how many interactions will take place in that vehicle? And how many opportunities are there to build stronger customer relationships because your car “gets” them and provides a great customer experience?
That’s why we’re so excited! Because with Watson Assistant, we’re helping our clients and partners achieve more with less. We’re also helping them shape experiences and, ultimately, transform their businesses. With technology like Watson Assistant for Automotive, the OEM can shift from legacy to sustainable and defensible. Using skills like car manual, vehicle data and status, navigation, and points of interest, our clients can capitalize on this massive opportunity and deliver unique, personalized customer experiences. And that’s the best way to retain and grow your customer base.