VW's Hofmann: Embrace machine learning or lose competitiveness (Photo: Claus Dick)

HANOVER --Volkswagen CIO Martin Hofmann believes machine learning is coming into its own as a means to achieve significant digital innovation across all business areas.

"Machine learning is no longer science fiction," Hofmann told the automotiveIT Congress. "It's here and its's real."

The VW CIO also warned that automotive companies need to embrace artificial intelligence and the machine-learning part of the new technology. "For companies that don't do anything today, the race is run," he warned.

Hofmann said interest in machine learning has been boosted by a massive increase in automotive data, coupled with a big increase in computing power available today. The growth of open-source software development also is helping the implementation of machine learning, he said.

Rather than copying the way the human brain functions, Hofmann said machine learning will develop its own competencies, using pattern recognition, prediction and optimization as the pillars for its implementation.

The VW CIO discussed a project the world's largest carmaker has undertaken to predict and prevent the emergence of traffic jams in Beijing. Working with startup D-Wave and using quantum computing technologies, Hofmann said the project can help predict a traffic jam 45 minutes before it occurs. It can then suggest alternative routings for connected cars.

"The water has evaporated before it starts to boil," Hofmann said, explaining the approach. He added that, though the experiment is still in its infancy, "the technology is so good that we already have achieved very good results."

The automotiveIT Congress, which is held every year during the CeBIT technology fair here, provides a forum to discuss the digital technologies that help reshape the global auto industry.

This year's conference features presentations by Bosch CIO Elmar Pritsch, Gerhard Baum, chief digital officer of automotive supplier Schaeffler, and Brigitte Courtehoux, head of mobility services at France's PSA Group.

-By Arjen Bongard