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How does AI work in a car? Automotive chatbots explained

 

We’ve seen artificial intelligence create text, essays, lyrics and even pictures, but how will the software function in a car?


At the recent 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, USA, both Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz made key announcements that they will eventually introduce artificial intelligence (AI) features into their vehicles.

But what exactly does this mean? And how will AI impact the driving experience and potentially bring benefits? 

Let’s take a closer look at what AI could look like in a modern car and how this might affect the overall driving experience. 

2025 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior screens
The interior of the upcoming 2025 Volkswagen Golf GTI

AI more than just a chatbot in a car 

Major German automaker Volkswagen has combined elements of ChatGPT with what it calls a ‘IDA voice assistant’ to read out researched content to drivers while out on the road. 

The brand claims it will be the first automaker to include ChatGPT as a standard feature as soon as the second quarter of 2024.

Volkswagen says that the IDA voice assistant will provide a “multitude of new capabilities that go far beyond the previous voice control”, promising more powerful voice control over systems such as infotainment, navigation and air conditioning than is currently offered in some production vehicles. 

2025 Volkswagen ID7 and Golf GTI front angle static with mountains
Volkswagen has confirmed it will use ChatGPT in its cars as early as this year

The owner will also be able to ask the car general knowledge questions – essentially making the vehicle a very large (and very expensive) Google search bar. 

Direct from the Volkswagen press release, the IDA voice assistant can provide “enriching conversations, clearing up questions, interacting in intuitive language, receiving vehicle-specific information – purely hands-free”. 

Over at Mercedes-Benz, a similar tactic is being played out, with the brand hoping to also incorporate a chatbot feature that is much more authentic than before. 

2025 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior screen with chatbot
You’ll soon be able to ask your Volkswagen all sorts of questions

However, unlike Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz has not made any official reference in press material to OpenAI’s ChatGPT software.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is far from the only large-language model chatbot system on the market, so Mercedes could be testing something entirely different for its software packaging. 

ChatGPT not necessarily the perfect tool 

The New York Times has previously reported that issues have been raised by researchers that software such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT can occasionally provide false or misleading information. 

2024 Skoda Karoq driving shot front 3/4
Skoda will partner with Cerence for AI in their vehicles

There are also concerns about user data protection.

Volkswagen has made it clear in its information statement that ChatGPT will not gain access to any of the vehicle’s data. Further, user questions and answers are said to be deleted immediately “to ensure the highest possible level of data protection”. 

Positively, the brand also states that it will use a program called Cerence Chat Pro to cross-check multiple sources to ensure the IDA provides accurate and relevant responses. 

Mercedes Benz GLS Interior
Mercedes-Benz will also have AI in its cars very soon

Cerence, a US-led company that claims to be the first automotive AI service, has also partnered with Skoda to launch an automotive chatbot that can answer an estimated 10,000 open-ended questions while providing a unique driving experience. 

Expect the technology to broaden the scope and breadth of topical car-related questions, such as:

  • How far is it from my current location to the nearest EV charger?
  • When was the Volkswagen brand founded?
  • When is my vehicle’s next service due?
  • How many hours have I been driving for?

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