In recent years, companies across the globe have realized the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and are using it to enhance their customer experience as well as for digital transformation.
Since AI allows businesses to make use of all sorts of data available with them, this modern-day technology becomes an integral part of any business.
BMW is no exception and is also a leader in using AI. The company is the world’s leading manufacturer of premium automobiles and motorcycles, and a provider of premium financial and mobility services. BMW uses artificial intelligence in all possible areas, like production, research and development, customer services etc.
Learn about the use of AI in daily life here.
Talking about the use of AI by BMW, the company runs a project with the name “Project AI” to ensure an efficient and effective use of artificial intelligence. Under Project AI, the BMW group tries to employ AI throughout the value chain.
“Artificial intelligence is the key technology in the process of digital transformation. But for us, the focus remains on people. AI supports our employees and improves the customer experience.”
- Michael Würtenberger, Head of BMW Group “Project AI”
Application of AI in BMW
From Research and Development to Administration and customer support, BMW has employed AI in every possible department.
Not just AI but its identical technology forms like Natural Language Processing (NLP) is also used by the company. It adds value for customers, employees, and business processes.
For example, customers get help from the Intelligent Personal Assistant directly in the vehicles while the employees get help from the translation tools and context-processing assistants in administrative processes.
Machine Learning, one of the branches of AI, and data analysis are used for energy management in buildings as well as in vehicles; while image processing AI helps customers in driver assistance systems and employees in the production processes.
In the month of March 2021, BMW revealed its next-generation infotainment system, iDrive 8, which is designed for acting as a digital, intelligent and proactive partner for drivers. The system is powered by machine learning, natural language processing, cloud, and 5G.
Let us look at a detailed explanation of how AI is used by BMW.
1. Research and Development
The R&D department of BMW Group has built an AI-based system for in-vehicle energy management. Since a vehicle has a lot of energy consumers like seat heating, the entertainment system, air conditioning system etc., its range is affected by their uses. Also, CO2 emissions are a worrisome thing considering their adverse effects on the environment.
This helps in saving energy, reducing CO2 emission, and increasing the operating increase.
Apart from this, the company is working to add acoustic signal processing to the AI sensor fusion. It will help the drivers to monitor their environment. Incorporating auditory perception can prove beneficial in urban scenarios, in particular, going forward.
The R&D department has to process a lot of information. It has to process over 33,000 requirement specification documents that contain the requirements for vehicles, components, and characteristics of more than 30 million individuals.
An application developed by the company allows thousands of requirements to be automatically translated and checked for linguistic quality, similarity, and consistency.
2. Supply Chain Management and Logistics
BMW has deployed artificial intelligence in its supply chain management system.
This AI application uses the image data marked by the employees to recognize whether a container needs to be lashed onto a pallet or any additional securing is required, for large and stable boxes.
Once identified, the system directs the boxes to the removal station by the shortest route.
Speaking of robotics applications, learn about Robotic Process Automation through this blog.
In virtual layout planning that includes creating high-resolution 3D scans of buildings and factories, AI contributes to the recognition of individual objects like containers, building structures, and machines.
In simpler terms, AI allows robotics applications to improve their navigation skills, ability to recognize people & objects, and coordination skills. With AI in use, alternative routes can be calculated within milliseconds in case of obstacles present in the decided way.
The AI-based technology helps the robotics applications to learn and apply different reactions to people and objects. In this way, the efficiency of the whole process of supply chain management can be increased.
The BMW Group has been using AI in the production processes since 2018. Even the company won the Connected Car Pioneer Award 2020 for its versatile use of AI in production. The latest brand series which is also called BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe adopts AI for painting car exteriors that make the range resemble the color palate of an artist.
The examples of use include automated image recognition, nameplate checks, dust particle analysis, and in press shop to prevent pseudo-defects.
The AI application is used to check for any sort of defect in production. For instance, AI evaluates component images in ongoing production and compares them in milliseconds to hundreds of other images of the same sequence. This way, the AI application can check the deviations from the standard in real-time. It can check whether all the parts have been mounted and are mounted at the right place.
In the final inspection area, an AI application compares the live image of the newly produced car with the vehicle order data. The image database contains information about the model designation badge and other identification plates such as “xDrive” for all-wheel-drive vehicles and all generally approved combinations.
For example, if the level of dust increases due to the time of the year or due to a sustained dry period, the algorithms catch up on the trend at an early stage and recommend acting upon it.
The algorithm monitors more than 160 features of the body and can predict the quality of a paint application with great accuracy.
At the press shop, AI applications help prevent pseudo-defects. For instance, earlier, with camera-based quality control systems, oil residues or dust particles on metal sheets were often confused with fine cracks.
Now, with the new AI application, the neural network can access around 100 real images per feature – i.e. around 100 images of the perfect component, 100 images with dust particles, another 100 images with oil residue on the component, and compare them in real-time, these pseudo-defects no longer occur.
Application of AI by BMW
4. After-Sales and Customer Service
BMW uses AI to resolve customer issues. When a customer visits a dealer reporting a problem with their car, the service employee uses a knowledge database to resolve the issue.
This database has been expanded using a software stack that includes an intelligent and scalable search facility and artificial intelligence that helps to process problem cases and knowledge data.
AI incorporates the context information it has into the search process, for identical and similar cases. It is backed by an automatic translation function that breaks the language barrier in the fault analysis process.
5. Building Management
The BMW Group is using artificial intelligence for energy management inside its buildings. The conventional methods of energy management started to prove obsolete so the company introduced AI and smart data.
AI is used to process all energy-relevant data and to establish previously undiscovered energy consumption patterns. This is aided by weather-related data. The company is able to heat and cool buildings more intelligently and efficiently using this technique.
One of the prime examples of the use of AI for energy management inside buildings is the pilot project in Munich. The company was able to save 1,200 MWh of thermal energy annually at its IT center.
The other examples include the BMW four-cylinder building, FIZ Projekthaus, Campus Freimann, and the dynamics centre at Dingolfing.
6. Administration and Support Functions
BMW being a multinational company has its presence in more than 100 countries. Its customers, employees, and dealers speak hundreds of languages, and also there is a daily influx of multilingual texts from external sources.
The company has developed its own translation solution that specializes in the BMW texts. Using this tool the employees at BMW are able to feed more than 2,000 texts into the system.
7. Customer and Vehicle Functions
BMW has incorporated AI in its driver assistance systems like Driving Assistant Professional. AI facilitates the drivers with automation-based driving functions that help them to drive safely, park, and stay connected. BMW adopts emotion recognition software to check drivers’ alertness.
BMW cars also have the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant that makes driving a pleasant experience. Just like other smart assistants like Cortana, Siri, and Google Assistant, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is operated through voice commands.
This personal assistant responds to “Hey BMW” and allows the car to be operated, functions to be accessed, and information obtained by voice command alone. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, powered by AI, allows us to directly communicate and interact with the vehicle.
These were the areas where BMW has incorporated AI to facilitate its customers. The company has also set a ‘Code of Ethics for AI’ that include:
Human agency and oversight
Diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness
Technical robustness and safety
Environmental and social well-being
Privacy and Data governance
Through all this, the sole aim of BMW is to use technology for the best yet with caution.