Volkswagen Teams Up With IBM’s AI for App to Navigate Cities

The Seat SA logo, a unit of Volkswagen AG (VW), sits on display at the Auto Mobil International (AMI) automotive trade fair, at Leipziger Messe in Leipzig, Germany, on Friday, May 30, 2014. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Volkswagen AG’s Spanish unit agreed to a partnership with International Business Machines Corp. to develop an app that helps people navigate around congested cities.

The tool, called Mobility Adviser, will tell customers how to use multiple modes of transport to make crosstown journeys, Luca de Meo, president of Volkswagen-owned Seat, said during an interview at the MWC Barcelona conference on Monday. IBM will supply its Watson artificial intelligence system needed for the concept to work.

“The collaboration with IBM helps us put machine-learning into the game,” De Meo said.

The move comes as carmakers invest in technology that will enable them to grab a share of the app-based transportation market, pioneered by the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Google and car-sharing giant Uber Technologies Inc.

The field is quickly becoming crowded. HERE Technologies, the automotive mapping company controlled by three German carmakers, last month launched SoMo, by matching drivers and riders with people they know. Microsoft Corp. also expanded its partnership with TomTom NV and public transport software-maker Moovit to offer journey-planning tools.

Numerous companies pitched AI products to Seat get involved in the app, Jordi Caus, head of easy-urban mobility, said in an interview. IBM was chosen for the work and development started fully in October. Caus said Seat is “paying something to IBM,” but wouldn’t specify financial details of the partnership.

The app has no release date and work on it will continue this year, with features such as Facebook profile integration being considered. Caus said the app could be released as a standalone utility, integrated into a different piece of Seat software, or made available for third-parties to integrate into their products.