What just happened? It's probably no surprise that carmakers have been looking into incorporating ChatGPT into their infotainment systems' voice assistants. It's practically inevitable, and it appears that Mercedes-Benz will be the first with its "Hey Mercedes" MBUX Voice Assistant.

On Thursday, Mercedes-Benz announced it would begin beta-testing versions of its MBUX infotainment system featuring integrated ChatGPT. General Motors made a similar announcement in March, but it seems Mercedes is beating it to the punch. Its beta system began rolling out on Friday, June 16, to US customers who opted into the beta program. The test group includes over 900,000 MBUX-equipped cars, including 27 model series from the A 238 to the Z 296.

Mercedes has made it easy for customers with eligible vehicles to participate using the "Mercedes me" mobile app or by using the voice command, "Hey Mercedes, I want to join the beta program" while in their car. After opting in, the company will push an OTA update containing the ChatGPT beta to the car's infotainment system.

The feature utilizes Microsoft's Azure cloud and AI platform to expand an already robust in-car voice assistant. Hey Mercedes performs many common commands for controlling cockpit settings and other functions. However, the system is limited to predefined tasks, like "Turn on the AC" or "Find a radio station."

With ChatGPT installed, the MBUX voice assistant can interpret commands not pre-programmed into the Hey Mercedes suite, like "What's the weather forecast for San Antonio?" It also enables users to speak more naturally without worrying if the MBUX system will understand the command.

Customers can find and get directions to restaurants or other places of interest without taking their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. Users can also ask more complex questions like the estimated arrival time to a destination. Users can even converse with the assistant to pass the time on a long trip.

Although its system uses Microsoft's cloud and AI platforms, Mercedes promises to retain "control over the IT processes." While data is collected, it is not given to Microsoft. Instead, it goes to the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Cloud, where it is anonymized, analyzed, and stored.

"The integration of ChatGPT with Microsoft in our controlled cloud environment is a milestone on our way to making our cars the center of our customers' digital lives," said Chief Technology Officer Markus Schäfer. "Our customers can always rely on us to ensure the best possible protection of their data privacy. Everything is under one big goal: Redefining the relationship with your Mercedes."

Mercedes expects the beta to last about three months, but it didn't have a timeframe for a wide-scale rollout. Beta developers and engineers will refine the system based on data and analysis results collected during testing. They will also work on adding more languages so Mercedes can introduce ChatGPT integration to other regions.