Merc’s next boss Ola Käl­le­nius on AI

Why AI changes ev­ery­thing

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

Merc R&D chief Ola Käl­le­nius on why artiicial in­tel­li­gence doesn’t mean the ro­bots tak­ing over

> IN MY job, you tend to be a tech­nol­ogy op­ti­mist by def­i­ni­tion. On the cusp of this knowl­edge so­ci­ety, sup­ported by AI, job pro­files will change and com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als alike will have to adapt.

> IF WE keep that mind­set, I be­lieve there will be an ex­plo­sion of new ar­eas to be ex­plored within the realms of tech­no­log­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity.

> WE’RE SUD­DENLY talk­ing about AI in such an ag­gres­sive way. We were watch­ing movies back in the ’90s like Stephen King’s Lawn­mower Man think­ing we’re go­ing into a robo­tised world, but then for 20 years it went quiet.

> WHY HAS it come back now? Be­cause a cou­ple of things have hap­pened and one is ab­so­lutely cru­cial: com­put­ing power. We’re us­ing AI to de­velop au­tonomous cars – if we wanted to do that five or 10 years ago, we would have had to hire a truck to store all of the com­put­ers needed to make th­ese cal­cu­la­tions. With the new pro­ces­sors that are avail­able to us, you can pack­age it in a small box. There’s a huge in­crease in com­put­ing power and sens­ing tech­nol­ogy.

> WITH THE ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence we’re us­ing now, it’s like the en­gi­neers woke up in their sand­box and had new toys to play with. We’re on the cusp of get­ting the au­tonomous car prob­lem solved.

> WE’RE RE­ALLY just at the be­gin­ning of un­der­stand­ing the po­ten­tial of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. For ex­am­ple, my smart­phone tries to get to know me through my be­hav­iour and make sug­ges­tions. We’re try­ing to put this into our new con­nected cars; they’ll learn user pat­terns us­ing sim­ple AI. Th­ese are just baby steps and there is a lot more to come.

> IT DOESN’T re­place orig­i­nal thought, though. I’m not one of th­ese Skynet pes­simist who think that com­put­ers will take over the world, but I can see an enor­mous amount of po­ten­tial in it as an in­tel­li­gent as­sis­tant for new tech­nolo­gies – and th­ese tech­nolo­gies will be for the bet­ter­ment of all of our prod­ucts and the com­pany as a whole. For ex­am­ple, one of the main rea­sons why peo­ple buy a car is the way it looks – this is still very much the case. But de­cid­ing the aes­thetic beauty of a tech­ni­cal ob­ject is down to the hu­man mind only.

> WHEN WE de­sign our new cars, the buck stops with a few in­di­vid­u­als who say that they be­lieve this is the de­sign trend five years from now. That’s all gut, emo­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence as well; I don’t think there’s an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence al­go­rithm that can solve that yet. If you’re wrong it can cost you a lot; if you’re right you can have a tremen­dous amount of suc­cess.

IN­TER­VIEW BY JAKE GROVES

Käl­le­nius joined Benz in 1993 and is in line to be­come chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2019 when Di­eter Zetsche steps aside

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