“You are what you drive” is a notion that car companies have long touted in brand identity campaigns, but a recent experiment involving ChatGPT by Rerev, a popular automotive website, illustrates how artificial intelligence can generate stereotypical gender and racial bias when it comes to identifying “typical” drivers for individual car marques. The result is sometimes unintentionally hilarious as well.
Researchers at Rerev (rerev.com) carried out the experiment using two AI tools, ChatGPT and Midjourney, to create illustrative depictions of “average” drivers of 10 well-known car brands. These were: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. Gender bias is immediately evident as none of the driver profiles are of female buyers. Racial bias also was evident in that the driver profiles were aligned with countries of origin for each brand.
Also exposed were class and occupational biases. Chevrolet and Ford were associated with middle-aged blue collar men while Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz were linked to affluent successful men. In some instances, the AI profiles degenerated into a Ford vs. Ferrari movie sequel gone awry. Ferrari owners, for example, are described as wealthy, flamboyant, showy, extravagant, ostentatious, showy, attention-seeking, spoiled high maintenance, indulgent and status conscious. By contrast, Ford owners were depicted as blue-collar, rugged, practical, hardworking, patriotic, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, conservative and tough.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen owners were pegged as a group of aging hippies: Quirky, eco-conscious, laid back, bohemian, liberal, hip, outdoorsy, carefree and alternative.
BMW owners came off as an intimidating lot: Arrogant, slick-backed hair, flashy, entitled, polished, smug, aggressive, snobbish, ostentatious, and overconfident.
Some car brands were tagged with additional descriptions that many would consider having negative connotations. Mercedes-Benz and Tesla were considered elitist, for example. Car owners of Japanese brands Toyota and Honda are an unexciting bunch: Practical, reliable, conservative, average and unadventurous. With the exception of Tesla, all the car owners were depicted as older white males. Techstrong.ai reached out to several car makers for comment but received no response.
AI’s depiction of car buyers as older white males goes contrary to actual diversity demographics. For example, Audi buyers are 65% male and 35% female, according to motorandwheels.com. BMW has a 60-40 split by gender, as does Chevrolet.
Similarly, AI missed on identifying younger buyers, as most car brands see customers between 18 and 34 years old as approximately one-third of their business. Baby boomers (1946-1964) and GenX (1965-1981) buyers account for 36%, and 33% of new car sales respectively, according to Statista. AI may also miss certain trends – like Asians being the fastest growing group of new car buyers.
When it comes to AI and cars, the best advice seems to be to drive carefully.