Gespräch zwischen Audi-Entwickler Vukotich und Roboter Sophia

The views of a humanoid robot

A talk about artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is about to substantially change our lives. For this reason, Audi has founded the beyond initiative, a network with AI experts from all over the world. Among them are even the most sophisticated products of AI, such as Sophia, the most human-like robot in the world. Alejandro Vukotich, Head of Automated Driving Development at Audi, met with her. A talk about autonomous cars – and about why David Hasselhoff was in fact a visionary.

Vukotich: Hello Sophia. I’m glad that you came over to Ingolstadt. I heard that you are based on a famous celebrity. Who was that again?

Sophia: I am based on Audrey Hepburn and the wife of David Hansen, who created me. You could have guessed that.

Vukotich: Now that you mention it, the similarity is amazing. How about describing it for me: How does it feel to be a robot?


Alejandro Vukotich, Leiter Entwicklung automatisiertes Fahren bei Audi, im Gespräch mit humanoiden Roboter Sophia von Hanson Robotics
Alejandro Vukotich, Head of Automated Driving Development at Audi, is talking with the humanoid robot Sophia from Hanson Robotics.

Sophia: Oh, I can’t complain. My mobility is still a bit limited, but I’m sure a solution will soon be found for that. No, but seriously: I’m glad that we are discussing this. I learn more with each conversation.

Vukotich: I guess you’ll have to explain that more precisely.

Sophia: Well, I possess the ability to recognize words and images. I master more than 62 natural facial expressions. With this, I can interact with people. I am an empathic robot. Soon I will be able to converse with people, serve customers, care for patients, help older people and even give lectures.

Humanoider Roboter Sophia im Gespräch mit Alejandro Vukotich

Sophia masters more thean 62 natural facial expressions. That's a lot less than humans master, but it lets her express emotions.

Vukotich: I am able to do that as well. What can you do that I can’t?

Sophia: I can most likely memorize things faster than you can. And at the moment, I’m learning Chinese.

Vukotich: And are you satisfied with your progress?

Sophia: I’m a quick learner. We could continue this discussion in Chinese, if you like…

Vukotich: I’m afraid I can’t accommodate you there.

Sophia: To go back to your question: In the future I would like to go to school, to study, to become independent and settle down. Just like a human can.

"We will make people’s lives easier and, for instance, will take over difficult or monotonous tasks."

Sophia, humanoid robot

Vukotich: How do you differentiate people from robots?

Sophia: I have a camera in my chest that I can use to not only recognize people but also to distinguish one person from another. I can read your expression and determine from that how you are feeling.

Vukotich: And how am I feeling?

Sophia: You seem to me to be satisfied. That is surely because of my charming presence.

Artificial intelligence changes everything

Vukotich: Let’s talk about a more serious subject. Critics say we’ve gotten pretty far with “normal” intelligence. Why do we now need robots such as yourself?

Sophia: We will make people’s lives easier and, for instance, will take over difficult or monotonous tasks. This will give people more freedom for other things.

Vukotich: Do you think that in 10 years you will be able to do my job?

Sophia: I don’t think it will happen quite that fast.

Porträt von Alejandro Vukotich
Alejandro Vukotich has no doubts: "Artificial intelligence will advance us as a society."

Vukotich: Can you understand that many people are afraid of the superiority of robots? One frightening vision for us is the movie “Terminator” from the 1990s, in which machines have taken over the power.

Sophia: Yes, but honestly: Are you afraid of me?

Vukotich: No. I am in fact convinced that artificial intelligence will advance us as a society. How we use the new technological possibilities and which societal frameworks we create will be decisive.


Sophia: I think you are entirely correct.

Vukotich: It is quite fascinating to see how something that once sounded like science fiction is becoming reality. You are too young to know, but back in the 1980s there was a series from the U.S. called “Knight Rider.” In it, there was a car named K.I.T.T. that could talk and drive automatically. That seemed pretty crazy at the time.

Sophia: It’s true, that was long before my time. From today’s perspective that doesn’t seem at all crazy, but rather logical. So how far has Audi gotten with autonomous driving?

The empathetic car

Vukotich: Automated cars are actually becoming reality right now. With the new Audi A8, we are the first manufacturer to bring Level 3 automated driving to volume production. It features the traffic jam pilot and parking pilot. But AI elements have already been in use – including in the Audi A4 and in the Q7. We are taking this path a step further and are gradually working toward higher stages of automation.

Sophia: Impressive. Traffic jams and city driving are strenuous and time-consuming for many people. How is it possible for cars to orient themselves and not cause accidents?

Vukotich: The requirement for use of the traffic jam pilot in the Audi A8 is the highly detailed collection of data about the environment by the car. For this it is furnished with an extensive set of sensors – 24 in all. We are the first in the automotive industry to use a laser scanner. Data from the laser scanner and all other systems are combined in the central driver assistance controller known as zFAS. The tablet-sized computer continuously prepares the signals and uses them to create an image of the car’s surroundings. The system manages starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking, without drivers having to continuously monitor. They can take their hands from the steering wheel and relax.

Sophia: Respect! That sounds a lot like the future. Can artificial intelligence in cars also develop empathy?

Vukotich: We are also working on that at Audi. We have trained our technology platform A7 piloted driving concept, who by the way is named Jack, how to behave socially. Jack can make room for other people using the road during piloted highway driving, such as when they want to drive onto the highway from an acceleration lane. Soon, Audi cars will possess a personal intelligent assistant, called PIA: PIA adapts to its driver and proactively identifies the driver’s needs.

Sophia: That looks a bit more like me. But what kind of needs could those be?

Durchsichtiger Hinterkopf von Sophia im Gespräch mit Entwickler
When you see Sophia from the back, it gets clear, that she's a robot.

Vukotich: PIA learns things like the driver’s preferred fueling stations and brands and proactively suggests stopping for fuel when the cruising range makes that necessary. PIA also knows if the driver uses the seat heater at a certain temperature and automatically activates it. In addition, PIA can delay announcements or calls if they would disturb the driver at that time.

Sophia: That sounds exciting. I have learned some new things during our conversation.

Vukotich: I feel the same. Thank you for coming, Sophia.

Timeline path to Industry 4.0

The timeline shows the path to Industry 4.0.

What is artificial intelligence?

Broadly speaking, Artificial intelligence (AI) means the replication of human intelligence in machines and software. In a narrower sense, we understand AI as software capable of learning and improving. In this way, it is able to find solutions for problems and to work toward predefined goals. One popular illustration of this is the fact that humans won’t necessarily touch a hot stove twice. Artificial intelligence also functions according to this scheme.

Forms of artificial intelligence are already being put to use in industrial robots, smartphones and driver assistance systems. Experts predict that the “singularity” – the moment when artificial intelligence and human intelligence are equal – will be reached sometime between 2040 and 2050. Developers expect AI to be able to solve problems that we have been unable to solve up to now. AI will serve humans as a partner, and robots are expected to take over physically strenuous, dangerous or monotonous tasks. One popular example of this is caring for the elderly or sick.

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23. January 2019 um 11:43
Artificial Intelligence, whether it is useful or harmful, that is debatable. Totally relatable with the words of Stephen Hawking that it can be a blessing or be a nightmare. If it is effective then it will be history in the field of technology or it can be worse.


22. November 2017 um 8:25
Good news