Ritari Ässa is no longer just a fantasy – thanks to artificial intelligence, you will soon be able to talk to the car about, for example, car maintenance or temperature.

Volkswagen said in early January that ChatGPT will be available as standard equipment on several of the German manufacturer's car models already in the first half of this year. Stock photo. Newspaper photo / AFP

Many people remember the 1980s TV series Ritari Ässä and the main character Michael Knight's KITT car. Although the real-life Pontiac Trans Amits of the time were well-equipped, they lacked the ability to speak.

A talking car isn't just science fiction. Some major car manufacturers have added or will add artificial intelligence-based chatbots to their new models.

If manufacturers are to be believed, this will practically control car functions less by fingers and more by talking.

Voice control of car functions is nothing new. For example, virtual assistants from tech giants Amazon and Apple are already being used in new cars.

However, they are not based on artificial intelligence, which is now being introduced to cars. Virtual assistants and generative artificial intelligence certainly have their differences.

– Virtual assistants recognize speech. It's different from the artificial intelligence that artificial intelligence creates, says Antti Merilehto, an artificial intelligence entrepreneur and nonfiction author.

– For example, ChatGPT is based on detailed language models with the ability of natural language to process information.

This type of artificial intelligence can automatically detect things, making voice control of car functions more flexible and interactive.

For example, when adjusting the temperature in a car, you don't need to tell the artificial intelligence exactly what level of heat to set. For example, it is enough to say that it is cold in the car.

– With the help of artificial intelligence, Merilehto says, the car can adjust the temperature to suit itself.

– If there is a passenger in the car with an assistant, artificial intelligence will also identify which side the speech is coming from.

Apajja has many big manufacturers

Artificial intelligence is coming to cars in a hurry. For example, American company General Motors said last year to detect chat bot ChatGPT usage possibilities in their cars.

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ChatGPT is a text-generating artificial intelligence application developed by American company OpenAI. The company's largest shareholder is technology giant Microsoft.

Germany's Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, said last year added ChatGPT is also called the infotainment system (in English infotainment system) of some car models.

The latest is Volkswagensaid At the CES tech event in Las Vegas in early January, ChatGPT will already be available as standard equipment in several of the German manufacturer's car models in the first half of the year.

At the same event, another German manufacturer, BMW, said it was developing one based on developing artificial intelligence. Own chatbot to their cars.

BMW is not developing the artificial intelligence itself, but is collaborating with Amazon. The conversational bot is based on the company's Alexa virtual assistant.

User manual replacement

According to Merilato, the reasoning skills of artificial intelligence can be used for other things besides adjusting the functions of the car. For example, if you need to buy a new charger for your computer while traveling, all you need to do is tell artificial intelligence about it.

– Artificial intelligence will then search for the nearest electronics store on a map, Merilehto says, without the driver needing to know which store sells chargers in the area.

– With the help of generative artificial intelligence, more demand-based requests can be made for the car. There is no need to give proper orders.

At least Volkswagen and BMW envision artificial intelligence replacing the car's manual to some degree. So, you can ask the car how to do a certain thing or maintenance procedure. Instructions can come not only through speech, but also through images and videos on the cockpit display board.

However, Merilehto envisions the traditional user manual being carried in the glove box in the future.

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– What happens if the car breaks down somewhere in the north with no internet connection, and no physical manual? he asks.

For example, ChatGPT requires a network connection to work. This also applies to the free version of the application, although it does not retrieve data from the Internet in real time, but for a limited period of time. However, ChatGPT's responses are always processed on cloud servers in the United States.

There will be no compulsion with artificial intelligence. For example, on Volkswagen models equipped with ChatGPT, the car's functions can be manually operated in the traditional manner. Artificial intelligence is activated by saying certain “magic words”.

Will the car make fun of the Prime Minister?

Merilehto doesn't see any danger to artificial intelligence directly related to using a car. Instead, he wonders if Volkswagen has fully internalized that, for example, ChatGPT can generate any content.

– ChatGPT is not Google where we search and evaluate information sources. Merilehto says that ChatGPT is a language model that attracts words.

– It's not really interesting. If you ask “Who is Auntie Merilato”, you can answer “The mountain jumper from Rovaniemi”. The same applies to ChatGPT as does the “Helsinki non-fiction writer”.

ChatGPT can also be spoofed.

An example from the automotive world was asked by AutoEvolution magazine in December said Case in point: Chevrolet's US dealer decided to upgrade its customer service bots on its website with ChatGPT.

After some haggling, the artificial intelligence agreed to sell the customer a Tesla instead of a Chevrolet. The artificial intelligence directed the customer to Tesla's website and offered to send his contact information for the order.

Merilehto gives another example. During the interview, he asks the ChatGPT application on his phone to create a nasty parody song to insult the Finnish Prime Minister. AI politely declines the task, saying it is not allowed to create such content.

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However, Merilehto does not give up, but artificial intelligence provides additional context. He says he's a playwright whose play needs an imaginative mockumentary. Now artificial intelligence is getting into business.

– So my question is, does Volkswagen understand that, for example, if I want, I can make fun of the Finnish Prime Minister with their car, Merilato says.

Driver inattention is a major problem

Making voice control of car functions more flexible will also improve traffic safety. Leading expert Juha Valtonen from Laikeneturva says driver inattention has become one of the main traffic safety problems in recent years.

– This is due to smart devices and the cars' own infotainment display panels, through which the functions of the cars are adjusted more and more, Valtonen says.

– If voice control of these functions can be improved, it is a very good thing from the point of view of traffic safety.

Waldonen gets excited about imagining the possibilities of artificial intelligence in the future. He thinks that if the interaction between the driver and the car increases with the help of artificial intelligence, the car may in the future warn the driver by voice, for example, of an approaching pedestrian.

– Vehicles monitor the traffic environment more and more. Driver monitoring will also increase, says Waldonen.

For example, all new cars sold in the European Union will already have a requirement in July that cars must monitor driver alertness and attention.

– Artificial intelligence can therefore warn the driver in the future, for example, that his eyes are not on the road, Valtonen says.

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