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GM Mary Barra says alliance with Microsoft will result in extensive use of AI and chatbots in vehicles.

GM, Other OEMs Connecting AI, Chatbots With Customers

GM, Ford, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence for customer service and to develop high-profit digital services.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra says we should get used having artificial intelligence bots as our co-pilots. And she's not the only automaker CEO saying so.

The level of AI the CEO seems to envision will make voice-command navigation and choosing of songs look like child’s play. Barra, interviewed on Fox Business, said onboard bot software will interact more completely with drivers by, for example, allowing the driver to ask why a check-engine light has come on and if they should keep driving until a service station is reached, ask about hotels with rooms available, etc.

“Having an assistant and really being able to use voice that is clear enough that you can ask questions and get answers, I think that’s what the artificial intelligence will enable us to do,” Barra said.

GM has been increasingly talking up its plans to use AI products such as ChatGPT as part of its ongoing partnership with Microsoft. The collaboration is not limited to voice recognition applications. It may soon show up in “everything,” GM Vice President Scott Miller told Reuters.

ChatGPT is a cutting-edge technology that allows companies to interact with their customers in a natural and personalized way, using artificial intelligence and natural language processing. ChatGPT can provide real-time support to customers, answer their queries and resolve their issues quickly.

The software has been the subject of much publicity and scrutiny, with both positive and negative reviews. For example, high-school teachers and college professors complain that students are using the software to generate essays and term papers rather than creating them on their own.

Many companies are deploying it to replace call-center employees not only as a cost saving, but also because in tight labor markets, call-center employees can be difficult to hire and retain. And call-out absentee rates among call-center employees is historically high, and therefor disruptive to daily operations.

According to a report by Workforce Institute, absentee rates at call centers can range from 4% to 10% on any given day.

GM says it aims to use ChatGPT to enhance its customer service by providing its customers with a more personalized and interactive experience. AI also allows GM to gather information about its customers and then target tailored services to them. GM and other automakers see digital services as a multibillion-dollar area of growth over the next decade.

GM plans to use ChatGPT in its customer service centers where the AI-powered chatbot will interact with customers and respond to their queries and concerns. The company hopes ChatGPT will help reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience by providing timely and accurate responses to customer inquiries.

There is companion software that allows GM to quickly analyze the data collected, identify common customer issues and address them proactively, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

GM is hardly alone in the auto industry. Ford has been using a chatbot as part of its FordPass customer app, and it recently deployed a chatbot named Ford Lucy that can communicate with drivers through their cars’ infotainment systems and provide real-time support. Toyota has been using a chatbot named, rather formally, Toyota Intelligent Chatbot to interact with customers. Mercedes-Benz uses a chatbot named Ask Mercedes.

Is there a downside to using chatbots? For one thing, customers often ask questions the chatbot is not programmed or prepared to answer. Think of it as behaving, at times, like a customer service telephone menu on steroids, which can leave customers frustrated and screaming at software.

And there are serious privacy issues. “Probably the greatest challenge facing the AI industry is the need to reconcile AI's need for large amounts of structured or standardized data with the human right to privacy,” says Pavan Vadapalli, director of engineering at UpGrad. “AI's 'hunger' for large data sets is in direct tension with current privacy legislation and culture,” says Vadapalli.

Even AI experts and advocates say the danger in over-relying on AI is that ChatGPT is not prepared to deal with customers with empathy or emotional support when that is called for.  Customers often get frustrated with going round and round with a chatbot because there is a language difference or misunderstanding.

Despite the high-tech attempt to replace humans in these jobs, there is a continuous learning curve for AI. Nevertheless, AI is clearly here to stay in our lives and in our vehicles. For better or for worse.


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