Demetrio Aiello is Head of the AI & Robotics Labs at Continental. Founded in 1871 in Hanover, Germany, Continental is one of the oldest automotive suppliers in the world. Although the corporation began by selling tires, today, they are focused on innovating in the fields of automated driving, electric mobility, vehicle digitalization, mobile infotainment, and much more.
Demetrio worked on the first navigation system capable of understanding speech commands, and as head of the AUTOSAR Center, he drove the development of the first Standard Automotive Operating System from specification to production.
Since 2015, Demetrio has led the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Labs at Continental – in what he describes as a ‘privileged position’ in which to contribute to the future of mobility. He holds a MSc in Electrical Engineering from the University La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, and currently lives in Regensburg, Germany. In our interview, he told us his thoughts on the future of transport, Continental’s approach to the future of mobility, and the importance of connectivity for the user experience.
Beyond self-driving cars
AI is set to transform the automobile industry over the next ten years. With over 263 companies investing in autonomous vehicles, many of them aiming to put products on the market by 2020, self-driving cars are no doubt the biggest headline-grabbers for AI research right now.
However, there are many other potential applications of AI in transportation that Demetrio argues will turn travel into a nuisance-free experience—and this is reflected in Continental’s development priorities. “Surely self-driving cars represent the top application for AI in the mobility domain, but AI can do much more than that. Have you ever missed a train by seconds, forgotten where the car keys are, dealt with a clumsy navigation system, or had a dead battery?” Demetrio asks. “I think most of us probably have—though hopefully not all in the same trip.”
“Thanks to applications like real-time multi-modal travel planning, automated biometric identification, adaptive user interfaces and predictive maintenance, all these nuisances will be removed with the help of AI. Mobility will become user-centred,” he argues. “Going from A to B will become a seamless experience for the customer, who will be free to decide what to do during travel time.”
“Going from A to B will become a seamless experience for the customer, who will be free to decide what to do during travel time.”
This has obvious implications for new market opportunities in entertainment to keep users occupied while they travel. It’s unclear what exactly customers will choose to do during transit, but Continental’s Infotainment products and services provide some early hints. Continental claim to be driving forward the increased connectivity of individual components within vehicles. Last year, they showcased fully connected refuelling at CES Asia 2016. Their ‘Holistic Connectivity’ demo vehicle not only informs the driver when they need to refill, but also communicate additional needs like replenishing oil or tire pressure. It also enables the gas station in question to advertise special offers on the car’s dashboard display on approach.
Continental argues that this digitization will decrease fuel consumption and increase safety across the board.It looks like that for Continental the global automotive industry is moving towards digitalization and, meanwhile, digitalization is changing the world of the automotive industry—systems, software, and services will all play an increasingly important role.
Continental’s four-pronged AI strategy
Demetrio explains that Continental have based their AI strategy on four main principles:
“For this, we have set up a data governance system for its collection, storage, and efficient processing.”
“To achieve best performance we have established partnerships with leading AI research centres.”
High Performance Computing
“We are working on hardware and network architectures that make it possible to run AI applications in real time.”
“This is the most important for industrialization. We need to adapt our development processes to the new machine learning paradigm and continue to ensure the highest safety levels for our products.”
Safer, simpler, more sustainable transportation
AI is set to effect myriad changes to the way people, goods, and services move around the world. Demetrio argues that this will inadvertently lead to much greater value creation through both reduced costs and decreased transit time.
“Machine learning and AI have a dual impact on the transport sector. On the one hand, they will generate huge value in mobility products and services by making them ‘smart’. On the other hand, they can massively reduce costs through process automation.” As a result, he argues that “the future of transportation looks safer, simpler, and more sustainable. Mobility will be made seamless, reliable, and thus comfortable for the user by AI.”
Continental’s vision, he outlines, is for a world in which the transportation of people and goods is fully automated. This, he argues, will free up time and mental resources for other tasks. “Continental will continue to offer and contributes its deep technological understanding and competence to the mobility world.”
“I love bringing innovations to market, and the last 18 years at Continental has offered me many opportunities to fulfil this passion. I hope to learn from the many experts present at the Summit and be inspired by what other industries are doing with AI. Industry analogues can often be a very valuable source of innovation.”