Fiat Chrysler launches concept connected car at CES

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has released its new concept autonomous vehicle, Portal, at CES which it claims has been designed for millennials by millennials.

Autonomous vehicles and connected cars certainly have been at the top of the agenda in Las Vegas, and FCA has been making sure it isn’t left behind with the release of its slightly chunky concept car. While the car may not be featuring in any Bond movies in the near future, it has been designed for the next generation of buyers; digitally native millennials who are nearing parenthood.

From a technology perspective, the main focus of the concept is the digital user experience. Working alongside the Panasonic Automotive Advanced Engineering team, the car uses facial recognition and voice biometric software to identify who is in the vehicle at any one point to customise the environment for the occupants.

Each potential occupant can customise their own environment, as well as creating new ones for any combination of individuals who may be in the vehicle. Music, lighting, vehicle temperature, heated or cooled seats are a few of the features which can be customized, and the team also claim sensors in the car can identify if an individual moves into another seat, changing the screen in front of that person to ensure personalization.

The experience itself is powered by Panasonic’s Cognitive Infotainment (PCI) platform, of which there is not a huge amount of information about currently. The Panasonic team have dabbled in the advanced connected car arena in previous months, OneConnect is a platform based on predictive analytics, though whether Panasonic’s artificial components are able to compete with industry leaders such as IBM and Google remains to be seen.

The FCA proposition seems to be built around the concept of the connected car as opposed to an autonomous vehicle. Yes, there is assisted driving which leans into the world of autonomous vehicles, though the FCA marketing campaigns are driven around the ideas of social media, personalized experience and entertainment. How intuitive and well-received this product will be will be primarily based on how good the AI system which underpins the whole proposition.

One area which has seemed to be discussed in any of the press materials is that of machine learning. While discussing predictive analytics is all well and good, machine learning is the next frontier of personalization. Think about it this way. Predictive analytics might be able to create an environment suitable for the average 16 year-old, but machine learning will create a personalized-environment for your 16 year-old.

If FCA are targeting millennials with families on the mind, the AI system will have to be highly adaptable. Kids grow up very quickly, and tastes change even faster; if the system is not able to adapt and create a very specific environment for the digitally native and demanding kids, the product falls flat. Predictive analytics is generic; for this to be a success, machine learning components need to be included.

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