Friday, January 12, 2024 by Laura Harris
German automaker Volkswagen (VW) has announced its plan to integrate the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT into its compact car models at the Consumer Electronics Show 2024.
OpenAI’s ChatGPT is one of the world’s most popular chatbots. It is known for simulating and processing human conversations and will be made into a central component of VW’s venture into AI integration. The integration is expected to launch in European markets in the second quarter of 2024. A launch in the United States is pending market approval. (Related: Gaming giant Activision rolls out AI that SNOOPS on in-game voice chat conversations.)
VW’s existing voice assistant IDA, being powered by ChatGPT, will provide customers with seamless access to an ever-expanding AI database. The new AI features will empower drivers to perform various functions, hands-free. This extends far beyond conventional voice control, allowing users to interact with the infotainment, navigation and air conditioning, and even receive answers to general knowledge questions, all achieved through seamless voice commands using AI.
The new feature will be available in the latest generation of infotainment for several Volkswagen models, including the ID.7, ID.4, ID.5, ID.3, the all-new Tiguan, the all-new Passat and the new Golf. Customers will not need to create new accounts, install apps or activate ChatGPT separately. The IDA voice assistant is activated with a simple “Hello IDA” or a press of a button on the steering wheel. It automatically prioritizes and executes commands, making the user experience seamless and hands-free.
Kai Grunitz, a member of VW’s management board responsible for technical development, expressed the company’s commitment to “democratizing technology.”
“Thanks to the seamless integration of ChatGPT and strong collaboration with our partner, Cerence, we are offering our drivers added value and direct access to the AI-based research tool. This also underlines the innovative strength of our new products,” said Grünitz.
Moreover, Stefan Ortmanns, the CEO of Cerence, highlighted the innovative nature of this collaboration. “With Cerence Chat Pro, VW is empowered with an automotive-grade ChatGPT integration that offers unmatched flexibility, customization, and ease of deployment, while prioritizing security and usability for drivers,” said Ortmanns.
In contrast to the promising outcomes stated by the executives of VW and Cerence, tech journalist Tasmia Ansari for Analytics India Magazine wrote in her article that the integration of ChatGPT into cars raises ethical and privacy issues.
For instance, when Mercedes-Benz integrated ChatGPT into its MBUX infotainment system in June 2023, it retained and analyzed voice command data collected by the AI. The company assures users that the data is anonymized and stored in the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Cloud. However, the company admits that its developers can look at your chats to improve voice control and introduce larger language models in more markets and languages in the future.
Therefore, the promise of VW and Cerene to delete all questions and answers for ChatGPT and not access any vehicle data does not guarantee the users.
The integration of generative AI in cars also raises questions about its practicality. Cars are primarily designed for driving, and the necessity of a human-mimicking AI feature in this environment remains unclear. Critics argue that the core issue lies in the lack of tangible benefits, with no clear demand from drivers for such a feature.
“More questions pop up, like if you sell your car, what happens to all your chats and interactions with the AI bot? Do you need a new ‘license’ for it? And what if a new owner wants to ask follow-up questions based on previous chats?” Ansari wrote.
Furthermore, VW, Mercedes-Benz, KIA and General Motors have failed privacy reviews due to overreaching data collection policies, some even attempting to access highly invasive information like the sexual history and genetic data of the users. Meaning to say, integrating ChatGPT into cars labeled as “the worst product category for privacy” by the Mozilla Foundation is not a good idea.
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