We’re in Silicon Valley at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Labs, the company’s research arm responsible for many firsts, including integrating Google Maps and Google Earth into cars and many early wins in autonomous car races. In this episode, we will talk with a senior member of the VW ERL who is leading their work in machine learning.
As Volkswagen is working to make its e-tron SUV, the car that proves it can produce electric vehicles, people will buy it. Policymakers will embrace as they cast around for ways to tackle climate change, the automaker is expanding its use of artificial intelligence. The company said on Wednesday that it’s in talks with international technology firms about collaborating to create new digital prototypes for products and features using artificial intelligence. It has founded a new ‘artificial intelligence lab’ to generate ideas, including possible cooperation with companies in the technology sector across China, North America, and Europe, it said. The company plans to use the technology in areas like AI-optimised charging cycles, predictive maintenance services, and voice recognition.
The Munich-based Data: Lab was opened in late 2013 with a focus on data analytics, and about 80 IT specialists, programmers, physicists, and mathematicians work at the site, researching applications for machine learning. One of them is Professor Patrick van der Smagt, who can break down complex topics in a way that most people can understand them – an essential skill when trying to persuade colleagues that the principles behind software that predicts stock market prices or analyses social media activity or recognizes natural language are valuable tools for their business functions, too.
A primary goal of the lab is to reduce development times for new products and features. This includes developing generative design software that can automatically create multiple digital prototypes of components and assemblies and then identify the best one based on weight, manufacturing processes, performance requirements, and costs. It can also speed up the process by generating thousands of possibilities simultaneously, cutting design time from months to weeks or even days.
Volkswagen already uses the software in several other areas, such as sales planning and distribution of replacement parts. It is also experimenting with autonomous driving and augmented reality. The latter is of particular interest because it can be used to help drivers get familiar with the controls of a new car and learn how to operate it.
The automaker is working with Nvidia, the graphics processing unit maker, to expand its use of AI beyond autonomous vehicles and into other business functions such as ‘robotic enterprise,’ where the tech could be used for robots that perform repetitive tasks at the workplace. VW has hired Nvidia to help set up an AI startup support program at the Data Lab that will start this fall and offer mentoring and funding for five startups. An engineering director and a former Nvidia employee will lead the program.