Will AI take over our cars?
The annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the biggest technology events of the year and a showcase for all the best new gadgets, including those heading for our cars. No surprise that this year Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technology developments have been one of the resounding highlights, with a number of manufacturers looking at how it can make life on the road easier, safer and more fun.
Here’s a look at some of the coolest things that have been on display.
ChatGPT in a VW near you soon
In 2023 AI became part of our daily lives in a way that it never had before, with tools such a ChatGPT quickly embedding themselves in our tech lives. It’s been used to create everything from school assignments to social media posts and various car manufacturers are looking at ways of integrating generative AI into their cars.
Volkswagen used the CES to announce that it will be the first volume manufacturer to offer ChatGPT in its cars as a standard. It should be able to control things like the heating, set the sat-nav, and answer general knowledge questions allowing you to swat up on your trivia on the move. The capability will be available in the ID.7, ID.4, ID.5, ID.3, the updated Golf and all-new Tiguan to name just a few.
More broadly AI has far more applications than giving you answers to pub quizzes. Harman, a subsidiary of Samsung, has been sharing Ready Care amongst its other new products. This focuses on the wellbeing of car occupants by monitoring their behaviour. It uses machine learning, AI, and neuroscience to ascertain how focused the driver is and whether they are distracted. In addition to knowing whether the driver has their hands on the steering wheel, it can tell whether the driver is eating or smoking with the aim of ensuing they remain in control of the vehicle. The system also uses a radar sensor to distinguish between adults and children, allowing it to adapt how the safety features like seatbelts and airbags are deployed.
Introducing generative AI is one thing, but some manufacturers have been combining it with Augmented Reality, or AR for short. BMW and Mercedes-Benz have announced their own systems that make the experience more immersive.
BMW has been taking visitors to the CES on test drives to try out its AR glasses as passengers. These show oncoming hazards, electric car charging information, navigation, and entertainment content. They also show visualisations to help judge parking spaces. BMW envisages that in the future both driver and passengers will be able to take advantage of these specs, which build on technology already available through BMW’s motorbike division .
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has been augmenting reality in its cars with its use of ambient lighting and high-resolution graphics. Combining this with AI means that the car can read your calendar, learn about your routine, and set the mood lighting and massage seats after a long working day. Driving can often be therapeutic, but Mercedes takes this to a new level with its virtual assistant shaping it to reflect four ‘personality traits’ so that it will appear to be natural, predictive, personal and empathetic. Sounds a bit creepy but could make introducing your new car into your life seamless.
The CES is often a chance for car brands to share a glimpse of what we can expect in the future. We are particularly intrigued by Honda’s reveal of the Honda 0 Series of EVs that is set to launch in 2026. It has two concept models on display. One is a futuristic saloon, while Honda calls the other a Space-Hub. This is a large vehicle, somewhere between a people carrier and a van that you could imagine looking at home if humanity ever started a new colony on a far-flung planet. Part of the concept is to utilize AI and connected technologies to maximise the fun and enjoyment of using the vehicle.