Volkswagen, the German automotive giant, is accelerating into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) with an announcement at CES 2024. The company revealed its plans to integrate an AI-powered chatbot into all Volkswagen models equipped with its IDA voice assistant. The move aims to cater to drivers who desire an AI-based chatbot capable of reading researched content aloud. However, TechCrunch during CES 2024 revealed that the ChatGPT feature could still be susceptible to tricks in certain cases.
This AI-based chatbot, developed with software company Cerence’s Chat Pro product and OpenAI’s extensive language model, is set to debut in the second quarter, with a rollout starting in Europe. The models receiving the AI chatbot include Volkswagen’s line of electric vehicles, such as the ID.7, ID.4, ID.5, and ID.3, as well as their latest Tiguan, Passat, and Golf vehicles.
While the feature won’t initially be available for Volkswagen models in the United States, the company stated that it is under consideration pending internal approvals.
ChatGPT, the text-generating AI chatbot by OpenAI, has gained significant attention, with Volkswagen being the largest automaker to integrate it into its vehicles. However, Mercedes-Benz had already incorporated a similar conversational AI into its MBUX infotainment system in June of the previous year.
Volkswagen, like Mercedes, has seamlessly integrated ChatGPT into the backend of its IDA voice assistant. This assistant allows drivers to control various functions, from infotainment to navigation and air conditioning, as well as answering general knowledge questions.
The German automaker boasts that ChatGPT will enhance driver interactions, offering features such as “enriching conversations, clearing up questions, interacting in intuitive language, receiving vehicle-specific information, and much more – purely hands-free.” To achieve this, Volkswagen is utilizing a more narrow large language model (LLM), named CaLLM, provided by Cerence, capable of addressing around 10,000 specific questions and answers related to the vehicle, brand, and operations.
Once launched, drivers will continue to interact with the IDA voice assistant using the familiar “Hello IDA” wake word or by pressing the steering wheel button. If the voice assistant encounters a request beyond its capabilities, it will seamlessly forward it anonymously to the AI chatbot, with the response delivered through the IDA voice assistant.
During a test at CES 2024, it was observed that certain phrasing might still produce generic answers. Limits also extend to questions about other brands, maintaining a focus on Volkswagen-specific information. Volkswagen and Cerence are not stopping with ChatGPT. CEO Stefan Ortmanns mentioned plans to collaborate further, designing a new large language model (LLM)-based user experience for Volkswagen’s next-generation in-car assistant.
This initiative is separate from the work being done by Cariad, the software arm of VW Group. Formed in 2020 to address VW’s software challenges, Cariad is pursuing its solutions, despite facing setbacks in the past year.
Volkswagen’s embrace of ChatGPT in its vehicles positions it as a trailblazer in the generative AI trend at CES 2024. The company promises that the chatbot will not require users to create new accounts or install additional apps, emphasizing simplicity and user-friendly activation through “Hello IDA” or a steering wheel button press. Importantly, VW assures users that OpenAI won’t access driving stats, with questions and answers deleted immediately for heightened data protection.
While traditional vehicle voice assistants often handle basic tasks, ChatGPT represents a leap forward in conversational capabilities. Volkswagen’s move into the AI domain, amidst a challenging 2023, signals a strategic push for innovation and a tech-forward image. In a world where many automakers are testing the waters, Volkswagen is diving headfirst into the AI arms race with ChatGPT.
As the second quarter of 2024 approaches, drivers in Europe will be the first to experience this AI revolution in their Volkswagen vehicles, with plans for potential expansion to the U.S. market still pending final decisions. The road ahead for Volkswagen seems to be paved with ChatGPT’s conversational prowess, marking a significant step towards a more interactive and intelligent driving experience.