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German automaker Mercedes-Benz announced Thursday that it will add OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot to its cars via a beta program for the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) feature in its vehicles, enabling AI-driven voice commands and additional functionality.
The beta will begin on Friday, June 16, and run for three months. Drivers looking to join the beta simply need to ask their car about it to get started. The initiative will be limited to the United States market.
Mercedes-Benz said that the popular chatbot is coming to its cars via the Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service launched by the tech giant in March. While the addition of ChatGPT is new, the MBUX voice assistant and its "Hey Mercedes" feature launched in 2018 on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
"Voice commands for the AI are through the car," a sales representative at Mercedes-Benz of Carlsbad in California told Decrypt, “so you would be speaking to the car directly.”
"The voice assistant lets drivers change the temperature in the car, play music, or set navigation," the salesperson said, adding that commands only work inside the car.
Isabel Meurer, the company's communications manager for its Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS) and connected car and digital products, told Decrypt that ChatGPT is the "most mature offering" among current large language models.
"Generative AI, and here in particular large language models, show enormous potential in the processing and generation of natural language," she added. "Mercedes-Benz is pursuing the goal of making the already leading MBUX voice assistant more natural and adaptive by enabling further variance in the voice outputs."
While the current version of the "Hey Mercedes" feature can answer questions, the upgrade to ChatGPT's large language model aims to make the responses more intuitive. However, widespread concern over the safety and effectiveness of AI tools may cause concern amongst some Benz owners.
For those Mercedes-Benz drivers not comfortable with ChatGPT in their cars, the company said that data protection is a top priority. ChatGPT will operate inside a “controlled cloud,” the company added, as the automaker monitors for potential risks and ways to improve the system.
“The integration of ChatGPT with Microsoft in our controlled cloud environment is a milestone on our way to making our cars the center of our customers’ digital lives," Markus Schäfer, Mercedes-Benz Group CTO, said in a statement. “Everything is under one big goal: Redefining the relationship with your Mercedes.”
No stranger to testing technology in its cars, Mercedes-Benz partnered with UK-based blockchain startup Circulor in early 2020 to reduce CO2 emissions in its supply chain.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include comments from Mercedes-Benz.