– BMW, along with other car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, announced AI-related advancements at CES 2024.
– BMW’s implementation of AI involves using a large language model to provide information from internal BMW documentation about the car.
– This AI interaction is more restrictive compared to other manufacturers but is a significant improvement over current voice assistants.
– The AI will be integrated into BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant and will act as a sentient car manual, providing detailed information and recommendations.
– The AI can understand commands even if the user doesn’t know the exact term and can explain concepts in a simple manner.
– The AI will ask questions to clarify requests if it cannot understand them initially.
– The voice assistant demoed by BMW was not directly interacted with by the author, but there were indications that it was dynamically responding.
– BMW plans to expand the AI implementation to include more features like navigation and points of interest in the future.
– The AI will be available as a free update for BMW cars running Operating System 9 in the summer.
The wave of AI hysteria at the 2024 CES in Las Vegas was predictable in many ways. It is, after all, the single biggest tech trend of the moment, and what startup wouldn’t want to be part of that buzzy zeitgeist?
To me, the widespread embrace by car manufacturers is a little more surprising. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen all had AI-related announcements at CES, unexpected because, though exciting, technologies like ChatGPT have proven unreliable when it comes to minor details like delivering useful, factual information.
For its implementation, BMW had a compelling solution to the problem: Take the power of a large language model, like Amazon’s Alexa LLM, but only allow it to cite information from internal BMW documentation about the car.
It’s restrictive—a process called Retrieval-Augmented Generation. The result was an AI interaction far more restrictive than demonstrated by the other manufacturers. Regardless, it’s a massive step forward over current voice assistants, and it’s coming to today’s cars later this year.
It will simply be part of the company’s current Intelligent Personal Assistant. Think of it like a sentient car manual, able to tell you anything about your car, explain the why, and give it a lot of nuance.
For example, you can ask your BMW not only to enable a given drive mode, but also about the differences between the drive modes, and even say something like, “I’m going on a drive on a twisty road. Which drive settings would you recommend?”
That sounds admittedly lame on the surface, but hang on because I think this might be one of the most valuable applications for in-car AI yet. Why? Because many modern cars, particularly premium ones, are ridiculously complex.
They’re riddled with such a dizzying array of features and functions that manufacturers increasingly don’t bother with paper manuals any longer. They’d be too unwieldy to print, for one thing, but beyond that, they’d be out of date as soon as the ink hit the paper.
Trying to keep up with all your car can do has become a nightmare, tamed slightly with the advent of voice assistants. Being able to say, “Turn on the heated steering wheel” has saved me many minutes of poking and prodding through submenus on touchscreen-dependent test cars.
However, those voice assistants are easily stymied if you don’t know the exact name of the feature you’re looking for.
Not only can BMW’s LLM-enhanced voice assistant figure out what you mean even if you don’t use whatever term the company’s branding team came up with, it can even respond to commands like: “Explain that to me like I’m a 5-year-old.”
For example, when asked to explain Efficient mode, the car said: “Efficient mode is like when you’re playing a game, and you want to use as few pieces as possible to win. The car’s systems work together to use as little fuel as possible, which is both good for the environment and your wallet.”
Should you manage to stump this new voice assistant, instead of just saying, “I don’t understand,” it’ll ask questions to get to the root of your request.
If you’re a power user and an automobile enthusiast, this probably doesn’t seem too enchanting. But imagine someone who’s new to or unfamiliar with this wonderful era of mobility, someone who has never owned a car with a touchscreen before. This could boost their ownership experience exponentially.
Now, one crucial disclosure to all this: I wasn’t allowed to interact with the voice assistant myself. BMW’s handlers did all the talking, and I was explicitly asked to sit by quietly while they ran through the demo. That raises the potential for my demo to have been faked, but there were a few hiccups in there that made me confident it was truly and dynamically responding, even if the set of questions at this point is presumably limited.
BMW did say, however, that this is just a first step. Ultimately, the BMW implementation of the Alexa LLM will expand to include more features, like navigation and points of interest.
The company gave no clear idea of when to expect those additional AI-powered discussion topics, but this first step at least is coming soon. BMW says you’ll be able to have these sorts of conversations in its cars running Operating System 9 sometime this summer.
Better yet, it’ll be a free update.
AI Eclipse TLDR:
At the 2024 CES in Las Vegas, BMW announced its implementation of AI technology in its cars. While many car manufacturers showcased AI-related announcements, BMW’s approach was unique. They took the power of a large language model, like Amazon’s Alexa LLM, and restricted it to only cite information from internal BMW documentation about the car, a process called Retrieval-Augmented Generation.
This AI interaction is more restrictive compared to other manufacturers but is still a significant improvement over current voice assistants. It will be integrated into BMW’s current Intelligent Personal Assistant and will be able to provide detailed information about the car, explain its features, and offer nuanced recommendations. For example, users can ask about different drive modes and even seek advice on the best mode for specific road conditions.
The implementation of this AI technology addresses a common challenge faced by modern cars, which are becoming increasingly complex and lack detailed paper manuals. Voice assistants have helped simplify the process of accessing car features, but they can be limited if users don’t know the exact terms to use. BMW’s LLM-enhanced voice assistant can understand user requests even if they don’t use specific terms and can provide explanations in simple language.
While the author of the summary was not allowed to interact with the voice assistant during the demo, they observed dynamic responses and believe the technology to be genuinely responsive. BMW plans to expand the capabilities of their voice assistant to include features like navigation and points of interest in the future. The technology will be available in cars running Operating System 9, expected to be released in summer, and will be provided as a free update.