May 14, 2020

Saskia Harreman
Head of Knowledge Centre

Artificial intelligence (AI) – the simulation of human intelligence in computers and machines –is rapidly becoming more mainstream. It is influencing a growing number of products and services we use in our everyday lives, and passenger cars are no exception. Indeed, much of today’s in-vehicle technology is based on AI, which is generating a lot of data. According to LeasePlan’s newly released Car Data and Privacy edition of its annual Mobility Monitor, over half of drivers are worried about what data is being collected from their cars and by whom, although a large majority are willing to share data if there is a benefit to their driving experience, providing it is done anonymously.

This blog dives deeper into the three main ways in which artificial intelligence enhances the driving experience – safety, comfort and convenience – and why it is therefore important for the automotive industry to tackle the issue of data and privacy.

Helping drivers stay safe

Due to stagnation in the decline in global road deaths in recent years, improving road safety is an international priority. Over 90% of all accidents are caused by driver error, such as poor anticipation, inappropriate reaction to a hazard or violation of road-traffic laws. In an attempt to address these problems, new EU legislation will make certain advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) mandatory as of 2022. Many of these advancements have an AI component which monitors, analyses and recognises potentially unsafe driving behaviour. If it identifies unsafe situations such as drowsiness, distractions or lane departure, for example, the system issues real-time alerts to warn the driver of the possible danger.

A comfortable journey

Besides improving safety, AI-based features can provide a better overall driving experience. For example, navigation systems incorporate data such as real-time weather and traffic conditions to optimally guide the driver to the desired destination with as little hassle as possible. Similar data can be used as part of intelligent speed assistance, which can also support fuel efficiency by suggesting the ideal moments to accelerate/brake.

Some high-tech in-vehicle features are seemingly small improvements that can make a big difference in terms of driver comfort. AI technology not only saves personalised settings regarding seats and mirrors, for example, but also automatically adjusts them into the correct position when the relevant driver gets behind the wheel. And in today’s era of connectivity, AI-based smartphone apps can enable the driver to adjust the temperature inside the vehicle remotely before setting off – which can be a particular blessing on a cold winter’s morning or a hot summer’s afternoon.

The convenience of predictive maintenance

The third area in which AI can make a difference in passenger cars relates to predictive and prescriptive maintenance. A standard diagnostic system does not signal a problem until it has already occurred. In contrast, artificial intelligence enables accurate information about the physical condition of the vehicle to be gathered, analysed and compared against historical data as the basis for detecting faults before they happen. Predictive maintenance not only saves time and hence money spent on diagnostics and vehicle downtime, but also helps to improve safety by ensuring that potentially dangerous shortcomings are repaired in good time.

Even smarter every day

Today, the role of AI is mostly as a ‘co-pilot’ supporting drivers by improving safety, comfort and/or convenience. Some applications enhance safety and driver comfort, while others improve convenience and reduce costs by supporting predictive maintenance or fuel efficiency. AI is advancing at a brisk pace and seems to be getting even smarter every day, but in view of drivers’ privacy concerns, it is important for data anonymity to be guaranteed. If manufacturers and other data users can succeed in winning the trust of drivers and regulators, we can expect many more AI-based innovations to be added to passenger cars in the years to come – although it remains to be seen whether artificial intelligence will ever truly take its place in the driver’s seat.