AI assistant empowers future of cars: Interview with Inago founder & CEO Ron Di Carlantonio

Jill Lai, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Ron Di Carlantonio, Inago founder & CEO; Credit: Inago

The well-established automotive industry is evolving very fast to electrify vehicles for the goal of net-zero carbon emissions. The electric revolution also redefines the concept of car manufacturing and the related technologies and services in the ecosystems. Ron Di Carlantonio, founder & CEO of Inago, the creator of an in-car AI assistant, said, automobiles generally only get major updates every three to five years. But now Tesla can update the car overnight, which forces the traditional OEMs to embrace digitalization and more new inventions.

Thanks to digitalization, Inago is able to bring more innovations to a car by offering a SaaS platform for the creation of an intelligent assistant. Di Carlantonio said, "We are a technology company. Before this company, many of our team members were creating a unique artificial life software for consumers. And then we decided to create virtual humans by simulating human interactions, like human conversations, facial expressions, gestures, etc."

Through our work in Japan with Toyota to build an in-car assistant that answered all the questions in the owner's manual several years ago, "We started to realize automakers have very little communication with their users. When car users have problems, they usually call dealers, not carmakers. So, carmakers never know what the users' problems are. Users don't read manuals either, extending that distance between carmakers and their users, and making it difficult to teach drivers new features and functionality safely. When cars become more and more complex, they need a better way to interact with users, and an intelligent assistant is a perfect solution. That is why we decided that the automotive sector would be a good industry for us," said Di Carlantonio.

Inago is now working very closely with many carmakers and their tier-ones in Japan. Lately, the company also started working with German and US carmakers. Today Inago has a team that spans from Canada to Japan for developing and designing their AI-driven interactive and intelligent solutions.

Through their AI assistant platform, Inago can further create a superior in-car experience for drivers who can converse naturally to interact with internet content and services, car data and information, and OEM services.

SaaS and monetizing car services

To make the solution easy to use and cost-efficient for all types of cars and brands, Inago offers a SaaS-based assistant platform that allows car companies and mobility providers the ability to deliver their assistant more easily than they can try to develop it themselves. Carmakers can simply pay monthly for using the service.

In addition to the SaaS business model, Inago is also piloting a monetization service of the platform. "So this means we can connect users in the car with businesses and services that add value at the right time and place in the car leading to a benefit for the user and additional revenue for carmakers and their partners. For example, we can recommend places to go and things to do to make your mobility experience better such as getting to the right charger to charge the vehicle or stopping for lunch. The assistant helps to connect drivers with the right service at the right time, easily and safely in the car," said Di Carlantonio.

Satisfy the ultimate demand of carmakers

Speaking of the carmaker's future goal for providing the best in-car experience, Di Carlantonio said, "Their first objective is to move beyond just a traditional interface in the car. Even till now, we still have many buttons in the car and each one is functionally separate. So, their goal in the next generation of vehicles is to bring everything into one easy, simple interface that is safe in the car. Secondly, carmakers invest a lot of money in creating many new features in a car, like adaptive cruise control, defrost, or safety features of ADAS. But about 50% of the people don't know those features and lack of understanding leads to accidents. So, we create a way for users to understand features without using the manual and allow car companies to deliver these new services to maximize usage, differentiation and safety."

In addition, car companies also want to create a unique branded experience for drivers. "For instance, when you buy iPhones, you get the full experience from Apple and all the other third parties. That's also what OEM automakers want but have difficulty doing due to their traditional custom embedded software culture. Inago is helping them build an expandable yet branded experience through a digital software platform with a deeply integrated intelligent assistant service that is simple, safe, and fun for everyone," said Di Carlantonio.

To demonstrate the Inago solution that is fully integrated into a smart cockpit, Inago will partner with MIH in CES 2022 to showcase its latest innovation. "MIH brings all the car components together and lets all the parts talk the same language. This way we can all work together. Hardware can work with software, and we can create new services, kind of like the iPhone."