Earlier this week, Volkswagen announced plans to augment its in-car voice assistant IDA with ChatGPT. I'll admit that I initially didn't quite understand the point, but I got a chance here at CES 2024 in Las Vegas to hear about the vision for this integration from Cerence, the company that already powers the back-end of VW's voice assistant. As usual, it's a bit of a rough demo, because it's hard to exactly see how ChatGPT will help you out when you're on the road when you're instead sitting in a stationary car inside of a convention center.
But conceptually, the idea behind bringing ChatGPT into a car is all about avoiding a "dead end" when you as IDA something, Cerence told us. Drivers don't need to do anything different — you just say "Hello IDA" or press the voice assistant button on the driver's wheel and start talking. And if there's something that IDA doesn't know, it'll check with ChatGPT. When the voice assistant hits ChatGPT, you'll only know because the response says "According to ChatGPT" at the beginning of it.
I wasn't able to get a great sense yet of what things ChatGPT is good for. One of the demos we saw involved asking the car to tell us a story about dinosaurs, as a theoretical way to entertain kids in the back seat. ChatGPT quickly came back and started spinning a cute yarn — a good proof of concept but probably not something you'll need to do in the car a lot. I asked the car to tell me about Sphere, the massive new concert / entertainment venue in Las Vegas, and it started responding with details about it "opening soon." That's because the version of ChatGPT in the car didn't have the absolute latest details about it. I was expecting more of a Google-like experience, where I could ask things like "who won the Celtics game last night?" but that's not really what ChatGPT is for.
Given how capable the IDA voice assistant already seems to be, I'm not yet sure how much ChatGPT will add to the equation. But, the usual caveats apply — this was just a quick demo, not on the road, and it's not fully ready for release yet. But VW is not alone in seeing benefits for adding LLMs to its cars. BMW is working with Amazon to bring AI-powered vehicle info to its cars, and Mercedes-Benz started testing a ChatGPT integration last year. I wager we'll hear more about this from other manufacturers in the year ahead.
We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.