Cars of the Future will be Cognitive

Published: May 14th 2010
in Economics » Local

Cognitive car.
Pic: wikimedia

If the last time that your car stopped working in the middle of the highway made you nervous, a new project from McMaster University and IBM may be of interest. The project is focused on creating a "cognitive car" that can predict vehicle failures before they happen, redirect drivers to less congested routes and help reduce traffic accidents.


The project is focused on investigating how the automotive industry can connect a vehicle's multiple microprocessors, which currently work in isolation, to engineers at McMaster who will study how using a single IBM multi-core processor to integrate what are currently disconnected automotive systems could improve vehicle efficiency and driver safety, as part of a Shared University Research (SUR) Award from IBM.


The IBM's multi-core processor is a "super" microprocessor capable of performing many complex calculations simultaneously. It was originally developed for video games but now has applications for financial services, energy exploration, information-based medicine, digital animation and oil and gas production.


The research will focus on integrating data from sensors and microprocessors in the vehicle and on roads to help drivers reduce accidents. In addition, researchers will look at how this same system can give drivers real-time visual information and alerts to take alternate routes, to reduce driver tension, road congestion and emissions related to stop-and-go traffic.


Dr. Alan Wassyng, acting director of the new McMaster Centre for Software Certification and McMaster's Software Quality Research Lab and an associate professor in the department of Computing and Software, will lead a research team of faculty and graduate students, and work with automotive industry partners and several other Ontario universities on the project.


Wassyng noted on a press release that "To date, our research has focused on safety-critical software in industries such as nuclear energy and medical devices, but increasingly, the automotive industry is adding functionality to vehicles that is safety-critical."


He explained: "Investigating how a powerful multi-core processor could be applied to manage that functionality will go a long way in helping build a smarter car that helps drivers operate their vehicles more safely and efficiently."


The program will also study how this increased computing power can help vehicles better integrate into regional and global transportation systems, including roadside service, traffic management, air quality management, and emergency services. The research team will use IBM Rational software, used extensively by the automotive industry to design, deliver and manage software throughout the course of the study.


"This project with McMaster University is an important step in advancing intelligent transportation," said Karen Newman, Americas Automotive Industry Lead, IBM Global Business Services in a press release. "While cars today generate a great deal of information, IBM believes connecting that information can change the dynamic of the commute."

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