What are the challenges for voice assistance in vehicles and how can you build new auto-specific features that make customers’ daily lives easier and more convenient? We asked the expert! Arianne Walker is Chief Evangelist for Alexa Auto, Amazon and we got the opportunity to talk to her about voice challenges today and in the future, how to build new auto-specific features and the technical challenges for developers of in-vehicle voice recognition. She also gave us her view on the mobility race.
Your theme at VECS is The Future of Voice in the Car. Can you share a preview of what you will be discussing in your keynote?
Voice is useful in many contexts including in the car where drivers must keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Voice allows us to stay entertained and productive as well as interact with the vehicle and stay connected to our smart home. In my keynote for VECS, you’ll hear about what consumers want and expect with voice in the car, the progress Amazon has made with Alexa and where we’re headed in the future.
What are the most common use cases for voice assistant use in the car?
We’ve seen customers primarily use voice for entertainment, navigation, communications, and car control (e.g., locking and unlocking car doors). Of course, we also want customers to be able to do all the things they can do with Alexa in their homes like listening to music, planning their days, controlling smart home devices, and interacting with skills.
What are the technical challenges for developers of in-vehicle voice recognition (as drivers cite in-vehicle voice recognition among their top complaints)?
By bringing Alexa into the car, automakers are able to overcome many of the challenges that consumers have experienced with voice in their vehicles. Alexa allows customers to use voice in a way that connects their life in and outside the car. Alexa uses natural language understanding to help mitigate the challenge of customers having to essentially memorize a menu that they can’t see, and Alexa is always up to date because she utilizes the power of the cloud, rather than being static with what was placed on board at the time of vehicle production. All that said, we continue to advance the technology that Alexa uses for an even better experience for our customers.
What are the challenges for voice assistance in vehicles compared with home voice assistance?
In the car, there is the addition of cabin and road noise that you don’t typically see in other environments, like in the home. This is one of the reasons Amazon developed Echo Auto with an eight microphone array and noise cancelling technology.
How do consumers view voice assistants today and do they expect to increase or decrease usage in the future?
We know customers want to bring the voice services they have in their homes into their cars. As the service continues to evolve for the car, we expect the usage to increase, as we have seen increases in usage in the home.
In what way can Alexa Auto make customers’ daily lives easier and more convenient?
Alexa is able to make customer’s daily lives easier and more convenient by allowing them to connect to the home when in the car and to the car when in the home. For example, through the array of connected car skills across automotive brands, customers can pre-condition their vehicle by asking Alexa to set the cabin temperature, defrost the windows (on a particularly cold morning), and more. so the car is ready to go by the time they head out the door. The reverse is also true.
Looking at the mobility race, do you think the tech giants, like Amazon, and new entrants will dominate the scene, or can the established OEMs and their suppliers take advantage and create a new position in the eco system?
Our goal is to create a consistent customer experience in the car, whether you’re interacting with Alexa through Echo Auto, a third-party device, or a direct integration into the vehicle infotainment system. We’re working closely with automakers and developers to bring new Alexa features to their products through the Alexa Auto SDK (software development kit). The SDK helps Alexa feel like an extension of the in-cabin experience and allows automakers to customize that experience to suit their customers best. In other words, we work with automakers and their suppliers.
Additionally, we introduced the Voice Interoperability Initiative, which is focused on allowing multiple voice assistants to work together seamlessly within a single device, which could certainly be the car. We see a future where there is room for traditional and new players to make the experience even better for consumers.