A virtual assistant is digital software that uses voice recognition, to provide a service. In the past few years, this software has grown substantially. But contrary to popular belief, voice assistants didn’t start with the launch of Amazon Echo. The first modern software installed on a smartphone was Siri, and was introduced as a feature of the iPhone 4S in October 2011. However, this technology was featured in cars as early as 2004 when IBM launched voice-controlled navigation Hondas.
Virtual assistant software in cars today
As drivers are prohibited from using smartphones and other touchscreen devices, cars are the best use cases for a digital virtual assistant. 77 million US adults use this software in their cars monthly compared with 45.7 million that use smart speakers, according to a new survey from voice tech publication Voicebot.ai.
The two biggest names in technology, Amazon and Google have taken note. They have both expanded into virtual assistant software in cars. Google assistant debuted car devices meant to bring voice assistance into cars.
Amazon’s Alexa released controlled smart speakers for cars also. Ford’s early plans for in-car Alexa capabilities include opening the garage door and playing netbooks. Extending voice assistant systems to cars is particularly important for Amazon, as they don’t have a smartphone product to install their software on.
More recently, BMW premiered its digital personal assistant for its cars, named BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Hyundai intends to let drivers use voice activation to alter air conditioning, lock doors, and start the car.
Android and Apple are also continuing their auto-integration efforts. Apple has packaged its Siri system with CarPlay, while Google Assistant features in Android Auto.
Right now, our in-car experience is still largely limited to the basic smart speaker setup. This technology could move just as fast as the self-driving tech that is largely holding them back.