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The Future Of Voice Assistants In-Car And On The Go


The world of transportation is undergoing a technology transformation. There is hardly any doubt that the 2020s will be the most impactful decade since the mass production of motorized passenger vehicles started over a century ago. The emergence of AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing will usher in automation and advancement of mobility in ways that can only be imagined as of now.

With an eye on sustainability and affordability of commute options, global policy makers and automobile manufacturers are now focusing on three key trends that will define the future of transportation. These are as follows.

  • Electric vehicles
  • Shared mobility
  • Internet of Vehicles (IoV) ecosystem of connected and autonomous driving

The merger of these three trends is going to create a seamless world wherein people sitting in offices, standing on the roadside or at any location will be able to connect to a self-driven vehicle via a smartphone app. Once the ride is completed, the vehicle would drive to the nearest charging hub and wait for the next ride request. With automation and prevalence of shared mobility, passengers won’t need to drive vehicles or to operate most of the on-board systems thanks to the integrated voice assistant.

In the last 10 years or so, we have seen various voice activated in-vehicle assistants emerge. It was not long before people who used voice assistants in smartphones started using them in cars to make calls on the go, and use navigation. Car makers all over the world are now developing their in-house voice assistance solutions or collaborating with startups developing cutting-edge voice AI platforms.

At present, Google and Apple are two of the biggest names in the vehicle voice assistance market. They have gained an advantage due to their early-stage entry into the market through voice AI in smartphones. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are their flagship products which a number of automakers offer integration with. Amazon has also entered the market with Echo Auto, a device that runs on its popular voice assistant platform, Alexa.

However, there is one major challenge that such voice AI solutions from the leading American brands face – the ability to cater effectively to non-American audience.

In a country like India, there is a tremendous diversity of languages and dialects. It is estimated that around 90% of Indians can comfortably converse only in native languages or a mixture of English with their local languages. Similarly, most countries across Europe, Asia and Africa have their own languages.

In fact, even among English speakers, the accents vary tremendously from the Americans to the British and from Africans to Indians. This is where the voice AI systems developed with a focus on North American users have traditionally failed to be of much benefit to users from other countries.

It is this area where startups and standalone SaaS companies have been able to develop some of the most cutting-edge solutions based on NLP concepts. Instead of focusing on accents and specific language inputs, such systems run advanced speech-recognition algorithms that are being customized for the linguistic diversity. For instance, in India, an ideal voice AI solution would be one that can cater to English, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam or other language speakers with equal efficiency. Similarly, for a European market player, English, German, French or Spanish etc., should be the languages to focus on.

AI-driven technologies are set to change the way we interact with our car. One of the key things that technology players have been working towards is the development of new products where the voice will be able to tell you, far more than ever before, not only about what is happening in the car, but also in your immediate surroundings, on your route or at your destination in real-time.

With AI and automation becoming the obvious next stage in technology evolution and the trend of automated, shared and electric mobility to become the norm, voice AI is going to be integral to the future of mobility. The connected car market is expected to get past the $150 billion mark by 2022, and this is barely scraping the surface of the potential that the next decade or so will bring for the vernacular AI-based in-vehicle voice assistants.

(The author Biplab Chakraborty is Co-founder and COO, Mihup and the views expressed in the article are his own)

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