As artificial intelligence technology continues to improve, the human-vehicle experience is evolving into something that looks like it’s from a science fiction film. A hot topic today is Intelligent Pilot Systems, an automotive driving concept comprising a smart vehicle assistant that enables a user to interact with the vehicle via voice; and intelligent mechanized function control for car entertainment, safety, autonomous driving and navigation.
With the maturity of machine learning technologies and the incoming 5G wireless systems, smart vehicle assistants will usher in a qualitative leap. Although self-driving systems get all the attention, Intelligent Pilot Systems will be widely deployed much sooner than Level 4 or 5 self-driving capabilities. Automakers, smart hardware developers and software service providers have all invested significant capital in smart vehicle assistants, many of their latest products were showcased earlier this year at CES 2019.
Speech recognition arrived in cars in 2004 and so smart vehicle assistants have already built up a user base. Now, demand for User experience improvements is accelerating the smart cockpit market. A better driving experience will be a priority for smart cars in the future. At present, smart cockpit market potential is mainly concentrated on the Users’ smart car voice assistant. Data shows that the user amount, usage frequency and market size of intelligent vehicle assistants are all growing rapidly. An estimated 77 million monthly active users in the USA use Voice interaction in their car, compared to just 45.7 million monthly active users of voice interaction systems in the home.
Smart vehicle assistants are expected to handle multiple tasks. A driver’s hands and eyes are occupied, so there is a greater premium on hands-free interaction capabilities in this environment. Voice assistants can perform more functions today than ever, including communicating, answering questions, and accessing entertainment.
Basic vehicle controlling functions include adjusting the air conditioner, windows, rearview mirror, etc., and querying data related to driving or switching driving modes, etc. Systems can also check the status of car modules, tire pressure, engine oil and coolant level, etc. A driver can verbally ask almost any question regarding vehicle status and situation of the vehicle, while the vehicle can inform or remind the driver using natural speech.
Music, radio and podcasts are very common use cases for smart voice assistants. Especially when driving, people like to listen to audio programs. Car manufacturers, entertainment venues and voice assistant providers are all taking basic features like play and pause to the next level with more personalized features driven by AI. For instance, quickly select content, play a specific portion of content, advanced recommendations, etc.
The Intelligent Pilot System players are Automakers, which want to apply great technologies in the cockpits of their vehicles; Tech Giants, who provide advanced voice interaction solutions and artificial intelligent services; and Startups, who develop various smart driving related mobile Apps and software services.
Many large automakers are independently developing their own smart driving solutions to improve performance, and working hard to improve the cockpit experience to enhance market competitiveness. While it is true that technologies developed by automakers themselves may have higher compatibility and deeper integration, automakers lack strong research and development capabilities in key artificial intelligence technologies such as speech recognition and voice interaction. Solutions developed by automakers thus tend to be simple and functional rather than advanced or innovative.
- Ford：Ford developed SmartDeviceLink (SDL), an in-vehicle control system that uses voice, manual buttons and capacitive touch screen controls. The system provides drivers with in-vehicle voice control services. Voice commands can be used to manage communication with paired phones, music and media systems, climate con89 bv4776trol, optional navigation systems, and navigation of the infotainment screen itself.
- Mercedes-Benz：Mercedes-Benz MBUX is an entertainment system and an internal voice assistant that allows the use of voice assistants without access the cloud. MBUX supports local search intent/provider integration, sports, stock market news, conversations, calculations, general query support and more
Tech Giant Solutions
The tech giants are cooperating with traditional automakers in a win-win situation. Currently, almost every tech giant provides a smart driving solution for cars. Apple, Google, Amazon, Nuance, Alibaba and Baidu have all created platforms and operating system designed for the smart cockpit. The platforms integrate technology and services into a car-specific operating system to deliver a smart driving experience. The tech giants’ advanced technical capabilities are also responsible for quickly optimizing the performance of products and services.
- Apple：CarPlay is Apple software that uses the vehicle dashboard screens as an iPhone controller. CarPlay extends Siri to allow users to use voice commands as their primary input. In addition, CarPlay can receive analog video and audio from iOS devices.
- Nuance：Dragon Drive is Nuance’s AI-powered voice assistant, which provides embedded services that do not require cloud access. Dragon Drive is powerful and supports multiple voice applications. Nuance also recently launched Just Talk voice interaction and Emotion AI to enhance driver and voice interaction experience.
Many startups are also providing smart driving experience related services. Generally these are external hardware and software applications. The service and products of innovative startups can be more flexible than the tech giants’ generalized platforms, and serve users in a particular scenario or with a specific requirement. Startup products can connect external hardware to turn an ordinary car into a smart car. There are however compatibility issues with some vehicles.
- Muse：Muse Auto is a small Bluetooth device that supports Alexa. Users can access all voice-based Alexa services through Muse Auto, including music, audio books, newsletters, weather, games, smart home control, restaurant delivery and more. Some well-known products include Automatic, Drivrtime, Dash, Chirs, Rova, as well as Muse.
- Automatic：Automatic is an in-vehicle application, developed by Automatic Lab, which is funded by Siriusxm. It connects to Alexa and uses the Automatic adapter to allow users to plug the device into the dashboard. Automatic needs to be used with an Internet connection.
The Road Ahead
Intelligent Pilot Systems are still very limited and the voice interaction experience and technology stability have much room for improvement. But there is strong user demand and adoption, and artificial intelligence technologies and the popularization of 5G networks are accelerating upstream and downstream opportunities for smart car related goods and services. Smart assistants for vehicles are at the core of this market, and will be for the next few years as automakers, tech giants and startups alike apply themselves to reinventing the driving experience.
Author: Ying Shan | Editor: Michael Sarazen