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Mercedes-Benz is enhancing its in-car voice assistant with generative artificial intelligence

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Mercedes-Benz is enhancing its in-car voice assistant with generative artificial intelligence, paving the way for more natural interactions and personalized experiences for drivers.

The company's improved MBUX Virtual Assistant will operate on the next-generation MB.OS operating system to create "the most human-like interface ever seen in a Mercedes-Benz," the company claims. Examples include predictive behaviors, such as playing morning news when entering the vehicle or offering to join a meeting if the vehicle owner's calendar indicates they are running late for a meeting.

Mercedes vehicles already have voice command features that allow drivers to use the phrase "Hey, Mercedes," followed by a brief command, to do things like adjust the vehicle's temperature, find a navigation destination, or make a phone call.

Generative AI could make these requests more natural and less prone to false positives, in theory. ChatGPT and other large language model chatbots are known for providing inaccurate information, and OpenAI is facing several defamation and copyright infringement lawsuits. Mercedes has not disclosed which company it is collaborating with to upgrade its voice assistant.

Mercedes and other automakers are looking to anticipate the AI boom happening in the tech industry. Companies like Volkswagen, BMW, and Hyundai are promising more sophisticated in-car voice assistants powered by the same large language models that drive popular chatbots.

The German automaker has what many consider to be one of the most capable voice assistants in MBUX, which was first introduced in 2018 and stands for "Mercedes-Benz User Experience."

The voice assistant will rely on a large language model for natural dialogue and responses to customer questions. It will also have four "personality traits": natural, predictive, personal, and empathetic. "The effect is more like a conversation with a friend," the company says. "The assistant responds to questions based on general knowledge and can also ask intelligent questions to clarify intent and draw conclusions."

The assistant can be customized to match the driver's preferences, including tone and speaking style. Want something more empathetic for those days when traffic is making you late? The MBUX assistant will be there for you.

Among its numerous suppliers, Mercedes relies on Nvidia for its water-cooled chips to power the MB.OS system. The San Jose-based company has developed high-power GPUs and automotive-grade system-on-chip for several automotive customers, enabling features such as advanced driver assistance systems, in-car graphics, and AI.

Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Cathleen Decker declined to name the specific company providing generative AI technology. "The company collaborates with a number of technology partners to develop and implement the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and natural language processing," she said in an email. "Mercedes-Benz is committed to working with industry-leading partners to ensure the MBUX system remains at the forefront of automotive technology."

Previously, Mercedes had stated that it was testing OpenAI's ChatGPT for its cars, but today's press release makes no mention of the popular chatbot. The company had expressed interest in evaluating ChatGPT's ability to help drivers get answers to complex questions while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Volkswagen announced yesterday its plans to install ChatGPT in its cars starting later this year.

Distracted driving is at an all-time high. But instead of trying to limit the amount of technology being introduced into cars, automakers are increasingly turning to more advanced solutions to encourage drivers to stay focused on the road.

Mercedes says the first cars with MB.OS will arrive with the anticipated Mercedes Modular Architecture or MMA, expected in 2025. The company's Concept CLA, which made its North American debut at CES in Las Vegas this week, offers a preview of what these vehicles will be like when they are close to production.

Additionally, Mercedes is adding more video conferencing and streaming options to its cars, including Microsoft Teams and Sony Pictures Ridevu. And a new feature called Surround Navigation provides better situational awareness presented as 3D graphics on the infotainment display powered by the Unity game engine.