VW Vehicles to Converse with Drivers Via ChatGPT by Mid-Year

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
A Volkswagen logo is seen on a Volkswagen ID.5 electric car on display at a showroom of a car dealer in Reze near Nantes, France, November 13, 2023.

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s VOWG_p.DE voice assistant integrating ChatGPT into its cars will be able to converse with users in a back-and-forth dialog by the middle of the year, the carmaker said on Monday as it presented the technology in Las Vegas.

Volkswagen presented its first vehicles featuring ChatGPT, to be available for customers in North America and Europe from early in the second quarter of this year, at the CES electronics trade fair.

From raising the temperature when it hears “I’m feeling cold” to showing the nearest Indian restaurant upon hearing “I want butter chicken,” the AI can recognize and respond to a range of demands, according to executives from Volkswagen and Cerence CRNC.O, who partnered with Volkswagen on the technology.

Customers can now adjust functionalities from their vehicle without touching a button, Kai Gruenitz, the Volkswagen brand’s board member for technical development, told Reuters on the sidelines of the CES trade fair.

“Our customers don’t want to manually adjust their seats … they want to use speech dialog systems,” he said.

Critics say adding generative AI in vehicles, though a step forward from the interactions possible today, is far behind the AI leap that was expected a few years ago, especially with fully autonomous vehicles. Automakers disagree.

“So if you have Apple CarPlay or Android or something, you are not able to adjust functionalities inside of the vehicle. That’s the next step,” Gruenitz said. “I think what our customers are really looking for is seamless, intuitive usage of their car.”

Volkswagen said it was the first volume manufacturer to make the technology a standard feature in its compact segment cars. General Motors said last March it was working on a virtual personal assistant using AI models behind ChatGPT.

Mercedes-Benz ran a test program last June enabling around 900,000 vehicles which had the automaker’s “MBUX” system to download ChatGPT, with the view of users eventually being able to carry out tasks like making movie or restaurant reservations from behind the wheel.