Volkswagen (OTC: VLKAY) is investing $180 million in artificial intelligence to develop cars that drivers can talk to.
The money will go to Mobvoi, a Chinese company that has backing from Silicon Valley giants; Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Sequoia Capital, The Financial Times reported. Mobvoi has voice recognition and language-processing tech that VW wants to add to its cars.
“All cars will soon be digitalised, they will become like mobile computers,” Li Zhifei, Mobvoi’s founder said. “We want to enable voice interaction and personalized services and accelerating [the development of] driverless cars. The technology incubated in China will be adopted in Germany.”
Mobvoi has already developed some autonomous car tech including a smart rear view mirror that responds to voice commands, The Financial Times reported. The mirror also provides such amenities as navigation, infotainment and even instant messaging. That means a person might be able to use Facebook and watch YouTube videos on the mirror.
Self-Driving Vehicles Might be Popular in China
The ultimate goal at Mobvoi is to develop the first Chinese autonomous car. Before he started Mobvoi worked at Alphabet’s Googleplex headquarters. So he is familiar with that company’s driverless cars.
It sounds as if Volkswagen and Mobvoi’s ultimate goal is to develop a real version of KITT car. The self-driving Trans Am with a personality that “costarred” in the campy 1980s TV show Knight Rider with David Hasselhoff. KITT was sometimes described as a computer on four wheels, which sounds like Mobvoi’s technology.
The VW and Mobvoi technology will be developed in China and utilized in Germany, Li said. Volkswagen lags behind its German archrival Daimler (OTC: DDAIF) in the autonomous vehicle race. Daimler has successfully demonstrated several impressive self-driving vehicles; including an autonomous Freightliner semi-tractor trailer, over the past few years.
Chinese might embrace self-driving vehicles faster than other peoples because of the terrible traffic congestion in many of their cities, Li predicted. Another reason why autonomous vehicles might be more popular in the People’s Republic is that fewer Chinese know how to drive because many of them have never driven.
Volkswagen is the biggest foreign car brand in China with a 16.4% of the auto market there, The Financial Times reported.