Will your future car also be your best friend?

February 14, 2020

This may seem like an exaggeration, but many of us already have a special relationship to our cars. They are with us at many key points in our lives during which we experience strong feelings, whether we are nervous on the way to the first day of a new job or excitedly driving to the airport for a much-anticipated vacation. With this in mind, it might not seem so strange that 41% of people admit to talking to their cars. But how will you feel when, pretty soon, our cars start answering back to us?

Human machines

We live in a time where our technology is not only becoming increasingly intelligent, but somehow also feel increasingly human. And since humans are social beings, it makes sense for us to do what we can to humanize the machines we surround ourselves with every day. It is hard to think of a more obvious example of this phenomenon than the popularization of virtual assistants that imitate some of the most basic human features. They are launched with human names, like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, and a voice to answer in when we talk to them.

But as our machines are being loaded with features to help us feel like we know them, they will simultaneously start developing features that allow them to actually get to know us. And when it comes to our cars, this can only be expected to deepen our relationship with them – our cars will not just get us where we need to go, they will keep us company on every step of the way.

Your empathetic car

By 2025, you might not even have to verbally communicate to your car how you feel or what you want. Through AI-based technology like eye tracking, your car will be able to recognize the physical signs of your mood. And by continuously analyzing the faces of the people who spend time in the car, it gets to know more about their preferences over time and can adjust accordingly. Within the next decade, you might be driving a car that surpasses even your most empathetic friend in terms of not only knowing what song cheers you up when you are in a bad mood, but also recognizes the exact right moment to play it.

A car’s ability to recognize emotions can also have a very important effect on Smart Eye’s number one concern: road safety. Along with alcohol and texting, human emotion is actually what causes the most accidents. Road rage, sadness, even euphoric happiness – these are all feelings that cloud our judgement and can cause us to lose focus in traffic. A car that can recognize these strong emotions and knows how to calm us down could save lives.

A more human future

From that point forward, development is expected to move fast. Intelligent machines learn in roughly the same way humans do – through experience. This means a car’s emotional intelligence, its ability to recognize and understand emotions, will increase for every face it experiences. Just during training, the system will be subjected to millions of faces and emotions ­– a supply that will continue to grow every time the car is used. A well-developed intelligent car will be able to experience and learn from a much larger number of different faces and voices than any human would be able to experience.

For decades, whether machines are bound to become more intelligent than humans have been a subject for debate for established experts as well as rookie technology enthusiasts. But recent innovation relating to emotional AI poses another question: will our machines eventually become more in touch with human emotions than humans themselves?

It is easy to feel intimidated by this possibility. But with effort consistently being put into developing machines with superhuman intelligence, there is no denying we will continue to become increasingly reliant on machines on an everyday basis. And a machine without emotional intelligence to match its IQ might be an efficient, but ultimately cold, companion to keep with us in our daily lives.

As Pamela Pavliscak, researcher and author of Emotionally Intelligent Design, puts it: “If we make our technology more efficient, we may make a more productive society. But if we make our technology more emotionally intelligent, we may create a more human future – one with communication, compassion and connection.”

Written by: Fanny Lyrheden