Voice AI the future of cars
Jul 13, 2021
7 MIN READ

The Future of Voice Assistants In-Car and On the Go

With in-car voice assistants on the market for over a decade, many automakers have become well-versed in the benefits of voice AI for their automobiles—superior customer experiences and safer, more connected driving. Although voice assistants have yet to become a deciding factor for most consumers during the buying process, drivers who have access to them are increasingly relying on voice assistants for both in-car controls and connection to the cloud.

According to Voicebot.ai, 130 million users (55% of the U.S. population) are currently using in-car voice assistants, with 83.8 million active monthly users. This total has risen 13.7% over the past 15 months and is more than 45% higher than the number of smart speakers as more customers discover the fast, convenient, and hands-free driving experiences afforded through voice user interfaces.

For those automotive companies who haven’t yet established a voice assistant strategy, choosing between developing a custom voice assistant with a branded wake word or adopting a voice assistant that’s familiar to their customers is still a challenge.

While choosing to give drivers access to a third-party voice AI platform with an established name and widespread adoption in the home may seem like an easier path, the solution fails to enhance the driving experience and does little to create brand loyalty. After all, if consumers can get the same voice experience in any vehicle, why would they choose one brand over the other? 

The decision to build, buy, or partner has greater consequences than just brand recognition—although that is a key consideration. When planning the future of in-car voice experiences for their products, car makers need to consider a variety of factors, including control over the user experience and data, adding functionality to the in-car experience, and the flexibility to iterate and include more use cases, greater convenience, and better, safer driving experiences. 

The future of voice AI in-car and on the go will be determined by the decisions auto manufacturers make now. Here are six key considerations for putting voice AI on your vehicle roadmap:

  • The in-car environment, accuracy, and responsiveness
  • Connection to the cloud and embedded functionality
  • Conversational interfaces
  • Personalization, privacy, and data usage
  • Improvement through iteration and control of the roadmap
  • Monetization and proactive purchasing opportunities

Accuracy and responsiveness in the car environment

Having an accurate and responsive voice assistant is essential for automobile companies wanting to deliver a consistent, superior customer experience. If a user isn’t easily understood by the voice assistant, they will grow frustrated and stop using the technology, maybe forever. Noise cancellation, multilingual capabilities, and understanding different accents should all be taken into consideration when creating an accurate and responsive voice AI. 

Noise cancellation

Speaking to a voice assistant in-car is not the same as the voice assistant experience at home. Voice user interfaces inside vehicles must be able to hear and understand what the user is saying even in the presence of road noise, music, or background conversations. In addition to specialized microphones and speaker placement, voice AI for the car must be trained for the specific types of noises and disturbances it will encounter. In addition, zone control algorithms will give your voice assistant the ability to differentiate between the driver and passengers.

Designing a voice user interface that delivers the speed and accuracy your users will expect requires a voice assistant that has been developed with the road, your vehicle, and your users in mind. A voice solution that was designed for the home will not provide the noise reduction or voice recognition necessary for enhanced driving experiences.

A voice solution that was designed for the home will not provide the noise reduction or voice recognition necessary for enhanced driving experiences.

Multilingual

Users feel most comfortable speaking in their native language. For car manufacturers especially, providing a voice assistant that can understand drivers in a variety of geographies is essential to their future product roadmaps. People are  more likely to purchase a car that has a voice assistant that can speak their language.

By implementing a voice AI platform with multi-language capabilities, car manufacturers ensure that future vehicles can include the same driver experience, regardless of the market where they are sold. 

By implementing a voice AI platform with multi-language capabilities, car manufacturers ensure that future vehicles can include the same driver experience, regardless of the market where they are sold.

Accents

In addition to understanding the world’s most commonly spoken languages, an in-car voice assistant should be able to understand accented language and speech differences. Even within the English language, there are regional accents and dialects that can present challenges for voice assistants not trained with enough user data to discern between the pronunciations of the engineers that developed them and the people that will actually use them.

When the voice assistant isn’t responsive or the response isn’t accurate, car manufacturers risk drivers looking down at a screen or reverting to typing on a mobile device—thereby negating the safety of hands-free voice interfaces. 

By creating a voice assistant that can understand multiple languages, accents, and user queries in the midst of background noise, users will have a positive experience that will influence how often they use their voice assistant and if they recommend it to others. 

Hybrid cloud connectivity

Hybrid cloud connectivity gives users more than just access to information from the cloud. Implementing a voice assistant with both embedded voice AI and cloud connectivity delivers the same—or better—voice search capabilities as third party assistants while allowing drivers to control their environment hands-free. 

Providing drivers with cloud access is the real magic of in-car voice assistants. With the right content domains, custom voice assistants in-car allow users to find parking, get restaurant information, ask for navigation, discover destination details such as weather and events, and even find parking before they arrive. Embedded voice technology gives users control over in-car features, such as adjusting the temperature, turning up the volume, rolling down windows, and turning on seat warmers. Working together on the same voice AI platform, cloud connectivity and embedded control offer the most comprehensive and convenient in-car experience.

Voice assistants with both embedded voice AI and cloud connectivity deliver the same—or better—voice search capabilities as third-party assistants while allowing drivers to control their environment hands-free.

hybrid model voice assistant has the advantage of being “always-on”. Meaning that with or without cloud connectivity, or when the internet signal is weak, drivers can still enjoy the hands-free features of a voice interface. Car manufacturers, in particular, want to ensure that the custom voice assistant that is controlling their product functionality is within their control to iterate and change on their product upgrade schedule, not that of a third-party provider.

Conversational interfaces

Companies should also consider the quality of their voice assistant’s conversational interface. Voice technology has evolved from simple command and control, where users need to memorize preset phrases, to natural, conversational interactions where users can speak as if talking to another human. Having a conversational interface that responds accurately and quickly is an important safety feature—eliminating the need for the driver to look away from the road and down at the screen to type corrections or to view a list of options. 

Making a voice assistant conversational hinges on a few key elements of the technology: the ability to convert speech to meaning, the availability of a large library of content domains, and the ability to understand the context of the conversation.

Through context awareness, the voice assistant is able to continue a conversation and remember the information already provided, so users don’t need to repeat themselves. Voice assistants that are context-aware allow the user to speak naturally and build on the conversation, without having to memorize preset phrases or constantly repeat statements. 

Through context awareness, the voice assistant is able to continue a conversation and remember the information already provided, so users don’t need to repeat themselves.

Regardless of how advanced your voice assistant is, your customers won’t venture beyond playing music and asking for driving directions unless you provide the necessary onboarding and user education. One of the greatest challenges for brands implementing voice user interfaces is discovery and adoption

Automotive companies can begin to create competitive differentiation and brand loyalty by making user education a critical element of their voice AI strategy. While most consumers still limit their use of voice assistants to simple functions, such as navigation, listening to music, and getting local weather, car manufacturers have the opportunity to make a voice user interface a critical feature of the buying decision. By educating users about more use cases and all the hands-free benefits of a voice assistant equipped with an extensive library of content domains, automakers can create demand for voice assistant features in new car purchases.

Privacy and personalization

Data privacy and security are top concerns for consumers. According to a report from Microsoft, 41% of voice AI users report concerns around trust, privacy, and passive listening. With such a large portion of users worried about how their data is being used, car companies looking to personalize voice experiences need to be considering how they will get user permission and differentiate between those customers who want their data used for personalization and those who do not.

41% of voice AI users report concerns around trust, privacy, and passive listening.

Microsoft

Creating a custom voice assistant—instead of partnering or buying a third-party one—gives brands greater control over user data and the ability to communicate their privacy policies to customers. With permission from users, brands can use the data they collect to create personalized experiences that take the users’ tastes, preferences, and search history into account. Personalized recommendations can include what music to listen to, which restaurant has the best deal, and the closest gas station that offers touchless payments. Brands also have the option to anonymize the data if users didn’t opt-in to personalization options and use it to better understand the user experience and how to improve it. 

By offering personalized experiences through a trusted company that is transparent about how their data is being used, customers will not only feel that their privacy is secure but also receive an improved customer experience where they are more likely to recommend the brand to others, make future purchases, and increase their Net Promoter Scores. 

Improvement through iteration

Voice-first strategies should not be a one-time project but should be continuously tested and iterated to improve and develop the best customer experience possible. Iteration should be performed based on real-world data and user behaviors. Start with deploying the best version, and then identify areas of improvement based on the collected data. 

Start with deploying the best version, and then identify areas of improvement based on the collected data. 

Testing should be done with quality assurance testers and groups of prospective users. Then, it’s off to the development team to find creative solutions for any problems. Car companies should be constantly observing, analyzing, and revising their voice assistants, as user data and test groups will provide valuable feedback on what needs to be improved upon. With an in-car voice assistant connected to the cloud, the voice user interface can be updated as frequently as needed. 

When considering whether to build, buy, or partner, brands should consider how their prospective partner handles updates and whether or not they would be on the same timeline. Having a partner that is flexible, agile, and works with your timeline is essential for getting the latest software updates to your customers quickly and efficiently. 

Monetizing voice AI

Custom voice assistants and personalization allow for proactive purchasing opportunities and revenue generation. Voice ads, voice commerce, and monetization opportunities can close the gap between the costs and return on voice AI adoption. Companies relying on increased Net Promoter Scores and positive reviews for proof of return on investment are ready to put monetization on their future voice assistants roadmaps. 

Voice ads, voice commerce, and monetization opportunities can close the gap between the costs and return on voice AI adoption. 

Monetization opportunities that offer non-intrusive ways of gaining real revenue from voice user interfaces are already making their way into voice experiences of organizations with mature voice assistants. When a voice assistant is wholly owned by a company and built on advanced technology, the roadblocks to monetization are lessened. 

Building a voice assistant has many complex pieces and companies planning on creating a voice-first strategy must know how to navigate them. From accuracy and hybrid cloud connectivity to conversational interfaces and privacy, automobile companies have a lot of pieces to assemble for their in-car voice assistant. Partnering with the right company that is well-versed in these priorities will help brands get their voice assistants out of development and into the car. 

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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