Volkswagen has made an entry into the ChatGPT market by announcing its plans to incorporate an AI-powered chatbot into all Volkswagen models equipped with its IDA voice assistant.
This move aims to cater to drivers who desire an AI-based chatbot that can read researched content aloud to them. During CES 2024, TechCrunch had the opportunity to test out the ChatGPT feature and discovered that it could still be deceived in certain situations.
The AI-based chatbot, developed using Cerence’s Chat Pro product and OpenAI’s extensive language model, will be introduced in the second quarter, starting with European markets.
Volkswagen’s lineup of electric vehicles, including the ID.7, ID.4, ID.5, and ID.3, as well as their new Tiguan, Passat, and Golf models, will be equipped with this AI chatbot.
However, at present, Volkswagen models in the United States will not have this feature. Volkswagen has stated that it is currently under consideration and is undergoing internal approvals.
Volkswagen Enhancing Driving Experience with AI Technology
OpenAI, the renowned tech startup, has developed ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that excels in generating text. Volkswagen, a prominent automaker, has recently joined the ranks of companies integrating ChatGPT into their vehicles.
While Volkswagen is not the first to do so, as Mercedes-Benz incorporated the conversational AI-bot into its MBUX infotainment system last year, it is undoubtedly the largest automaker to date to adopt this technology.
Similar to Mercedes, Volkswagen has seamlessly integrated ChatGPT into the backend of its IDA voice assistant.
This integration allows drivers to effortlessly control various aspects of their vehicle, such as infotainment, navigation, air conditioning, and even seek answers to general knowledge questions.
Volkswagen envisions ChatGPT going beyond its fundamental capabilities.
The company highlights its potential to enrich conversations, provide clarifications, engage in intuitive language interactions, offer vehicle-specific information, and much more – all without requiring any physical input from the driver.
To enhance its capabilities further, Volkswagen has also employed a specialized large language model (LLM) called CaLLM, provided by Cerence.
This LLM is tailored to address approximately 10,000 questions and answers that are specific to Volkswagen vehicles, its brand, and operations. Cerence’s contribution further enhances the overall functionality of ChatGPT within Volkswagen’s ecosystem.
User Interaction and Future Collaboration with Cerence
Once the feature is launched, drivers will continue to interact with the IDA voice assistant as they have previously done.
The voice assistant can be activated by either saying the wake word “Hello IDA” or by pressing the button on the steering wheel.
In cases where the voice assistant is unable to handle a request that goes beyond the scope of “Hey IDA, what’s the weather forecast?”, it will be anonymously forwarded to the AI chatbot.
The response will then be delivered through the IDA voice assistant, clearly indicating its source.
Cerence has worked with Volkswagen to establish certain limitations on what the chatbot can answer.
For example, questions related to profanity, sex, and other “sensitive” topics like the Israel-Hamas War will not be addressed. However, during a test at CES 2024, I managed to phrase a question in a way that prompted a generic answer.
Cerence has also imposed limitations on other brands. For instance, when asked “tell me the 10 reasons I should buy a Toyota,” the assistant responded with “Sorry, I can’t answer that question.”
On the other hand, if the question is more general, such as inquiring about the automaker that sold the most EVs in 2022, the voice assistant, utilizing ChatGPT, will provide the answer, which is Tesla.
ChatGPT may just be the beginning for Volkswagen. Stefan Ortmanns, the CEO of Cerence, stated that the two companies will explore collaboration to develop a new, large language model (LLM)-based user experience as the foundation for Volkswagen’s next-generation in-car assistant.
It is important to note that this rollout is distinct from the work being undertaken by Cariad, the software division of VW Group. Cariad was established in 2020 to address VW’s software-related challenges.
However, the unit has faced its own set of difficulties in the past year, including a delayed software launch and changes in its executive team.