Shahzad Sheikh asks, are you ready for your car to talk back to you? Well, you’d better be, because the future of driving is about to get a whole lot more like “Knight Rider” than you ever thought possible, remember KITT, the talking car? Well, hold onto your steering wheels, because AI (Artificial Intelligence) is about to make our cars chatty companions on our daily commutes.

Okay so we’re not quite talking cars that drive themselves (not widely anyway), nor an indestructible shell, Turbo Boost jump mode, ejector seats, and definitely not Super Pursuit mode – but if you’re looking for witty repartee from the dashboard, you’re in luck.
Because this is not fantasy people, but reality. AI is set to explode in in 2024. Cars that talk back, understand you, and even crack a joke or two are zooming our way, transforming the driving experience from serene to sci-fi.

So, how will that work exactly? It’s all about making life easier and a bit more fun. Imagine asking your car for the best route, the nearest petrol station, info about that weird looking you’ve always passed on your route but never stopped to inspect, or even just how its day was and getting a witty response: “you know, the usual, parked up and patiently awaiting your royal return!”

That’s the magic of generative AI, the smart tech behind this revolution, which is learning and evolving at lightning speed. The buzz around AI isn’t new, but the pace at which it’s advancing is mind-blowing. It’s like going from a brick phone in the early days of cellular calls to an all-singing all-dancing iPhone 15 in the blink of an eye. And just as the internet changed everything about how we live and work, AI is about to shake things up in a big way.

Car giants like Volkswagen are leading the charge, announcing plans to roll out cars equipped with ChatGPT as standard by the second quarter of this year. Initially they will have limited functionality and will immediately delete conversations rather than store them, but you can bet that will change soon enough. It won’t be long before we have clever AI that can chat away with you.
Mercedes will be introducing virtual AI characters into its MBUX infotainment system and MB.OS software platform, while BMW introduced a ‘Digital Emotional Experience’ in last year’s concept car, the I Vision Dee.

Interestingly in the accompanying promotional video for the I Vision Dee, there was a brief cameo by David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight in the Knight Rider KITT car, the black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. This was to draw the obvious link between the concept and the notion of your car as a companion and friend – Knight often referred to KITT as ‘buddy’.

The tyre company, Continental, has partnered with Google Cloud to create a generative AI package for cars, aimed at engaging drivers in normal conversation. And in this case, the conversations will be remembered so drivers can continue the chat as they would with a real person.

In the Far East, Hyundai and Kia are actively working to put AI in their cars, while Toyota and Honda are also investing in the new technology. In fact, the Japanese will readily embrace Generative AI due to the influences in popular media and the historical Shinto beliefs ascribing a living soul to inanimate objects through a supernatural force that animates the material universe.
This tech is also about reconnecting us with our cars in a new way. As electric vehicles become more common, we’re missing out on some of the thrills of driving, like the roar of the engine. AI’s personal touch could fill that gap, giving your car a personality that’s all its own.

Of course, there’s always a concern with new technology. Elon Musk warned of Generative AI becoming an “Immortal Dictator” while Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, has warned that AI must by contained by robust ethical frameworks. Meanwhile Bill Gates said that it has the “potential to change the world in ways that we can’t even imagine.”
As AI gets smarter, we’ve got to make sure it’s used for good, keeping our best interests at heart. After all, no one wants a real-life “Terminator” scenario on their hands. When you do find AI as you buddy, your helper, and even your confidant, just remember to be nice!