Earlier this week, Volkswagen revealed its intention to enhance its in-car voice assistant, IDA, with ChatGPT. Initially, I found it a bit puzzling, but here at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to grasp the vision behind this integration from Cerence, the company powering the back-end of VW’s voice assistant. Granted, the demo was a bit rough, as it’s challenging to envision how ChatGPT will assist you on the road when you’re actually stationary inside a car within a convention center.
Conceptually, the incorporation of ChatGPT into a car aims to prevent reaching a “dead end” when querying IDA, as explained by Cerence. Drivers won’t need to change their behavior — simply utter “Hello IDA” or press the voice assistant button on the driver’s wheel to initiate conversation. If IDA encounters an unfamiliar query, it seamlessly consults ChatGPT. The indication that the voice assistant is consulting ChatGPT becomes apparent when the response begins with “According to ChatGPT.”
I haven’t fully grasped the range of applications where ChatGPT excels. One demonstration involved requesting the car to share a dinosaur-themed story, seemingly aimed at entertaining kids in the back seat. ChatGPT promptly responded with an engaging narrative, showcasing its potential for recreational use, though such scenarios may not be frequent in the car. In another instance, when I inquired about Sphere, a new entertainment venue in Las Vegas, ChatGPT provided details that indicated it might not have the most up-to-date information.
Contrary to my expectations of a Google-like experience, where I could ask real-time questions, ChatGPT seems more oriented toward creative interactions rather than providing immediate factual updates, at least based on this demo.
Considering the already robust capabilities of the IDA voice assistant, it remains uncertain how much ChatGPT will enhance the overall experience. However, it’s crucial to note that this was a brief demonstration, not conducted on the road, and the technology is not yet ready for a full release. Volkswagen is not the only automaker exploring the benefits of integrating Language Models into cars; BMW is collaborating with Amazon for AI-powered vehicle information, and Mercedes-Benz commenced testing a ChatGPT integration last year. It’s likely that other manufacturers will delve into similar endeavors in the coming year.