Driving the Future: What Is an AI Cockpit?

From Knight Rider’s KITT to Ironman’s JARVIS, intelligent copilots have been a staple of forward-looking pop culture.
Advancements in AI and high-performance processors are turning these sci-fi concepts into reality. But what, exactly, is an AI cockpit, and how will it change the way we move?
AI is enabling a range of new software-defined, in-vehicle capabilities across the transportation industry. With centralized, high-performance compute, automakers can now build vehicles that become smarter over time.
A vehicle’s cockpit typically requires a collection of electronic control units and switches to perform basic functions, such as powering entertainment or adjusting temperature. Consolidating these components with an AI platform such as NVIDIA DRIVE AGX simplifies the architecture while creating more compute headroom to add new features. In addition, NVIDIA DRIVE IX provides an open and extensible software framework for a software-defined cockpit experience.
Mercedes-Benz released the first such intelligent cockpit, the MBUX AI system , powered by NVIDIA technology, in 2018. The system is currently in more than 20 Mercedes-Benz models, with the second generation debuting in the upcoming S-Class.
The second-generation MBUX system is set to debut in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. MBUX and other such AI cockpits orchestrate crucial safety and convenience features much more smoothly than the traditional vehicle architecture. They centralize compute for streamlined functions, and they’re constantly learning. By regularly delivering new features, they extend the joy of ownership throughout the life of the vehicle.
Always Alert
But safety is the foremost benefit of AI in the vehicle. AI acts as an extra set of eyes on the 360-degree environment surrounding the vehicle, as well as an intelligent guardian for drivers and passengers inside.
One key feature is driver monitoring. As automated driving functions become more commonplace across vehicle fleets, it’s critical to ensure the human at the wheel is alert and paying attention.
AI cockpits use interior cameras to monitor whether the driver is paying attention to the road. Using interior-facing cameras, AI-powered driver monitoring can track driver activity, head position and facial movements to analyze whether the driver is paying attention, drowsy or distracted. The system can then alert the driver, bringing attention back to the road.
This system can also help keep those inside and outside the vehicle safe and alert. By sensing whether a passenger is about to exit a car and using exterior sensors to monitor the outside environment, AI can warn of oncoming traffic or pedestrians and bikers potentially in the path of the opening door.
It also acts as a guardian in emergency situations. If a passenger is not sitting properly in their seat, the system can prevent an airbag activation...