Transformation of Driving Experience: Tips for Implementing Conversational AI in Automotive Industry

By March 9, 2021Blog Posts
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From mobile devices to smart homes and websites to virtual assistants, conversational platforms are everywhere we touch. By using voice as the most natural form of interaction, conversational-AI transforms any platform into a helpful assistant.

The use of voice-activated digital assistants is increasingly becoming common in cars as well.

According to recent research by Market Insight Reports, AI in the automotive market is expected to be appraised at USD 12 billion by 2026.

The Transformation of Infotainment Systems

Before the proliferation of conversational systems, infotainment systems were popular in-car systems.

The in-vehicle infotainment system had its origin in the 1930s, but the first-ever car radio, named ‘Motorola’, was introduced in 1950. After several advancements in the automotive industry, during 1970−1977 automotive cassette tape player was introduced. The integrated GPS navigation system was introduced by Toyota in 1987, followed by other players in the following years.

In the late 1990s, remote diagnostics came into the picture and after 2003, vehicle health reports became an inclusive part of connected car services. In the late 1990s, smartphone technology also evolved and around 2004−2006 smartphone connectivity for in-vehicle infotainment was introduced. By the end of the decade, alternates for in-vehicle smartphone usage, such as large display screen that includes services like audio, visual, e-mail, vehicle diagnostics, navigation and compatibility of mobile apps came into the picture. After the 2010s, we started to see more voice-activated systems in cars. The rise of voice-based assistants also accelerated the adoption of conversational systems in vehicles.

What does In-Car Conversational AI offer?

The convenience of conversational systems in cars is undeniable. Letting the drivers operate all in-car systems by voice enhances the driving experience and increases security by minimizing distraction.

Enhancing Security with Conversational AI

Driver distraction is an important road safety issue. National  Highway  Traffic Safety  Administration  (NHTSA) estimates that in  25%  of accidents in the US driver distraction is the main reason for an accident.  This means just in the US, 1.2 million incidents each year happen because of driver distraction.

Modern cars with advanced infotainment systems often need more cognitive attention, causing more distraction. That is why researchers are searching for better ways to manage distraction by improving the interaction between the car and the driver. And conversational AI technology offers an effective solution. The technology allows hands-free interaction via natural speech. Advancements in speech recognition and natural language processing technologies enable an ongoing conversation between the driver and the user. This ensures an uninterrupted driving experience, which increases security.

Enhancing Driving Experience

In-car conversational AI applications enable users to interact with voice, the most natural interface. The hands-free nature of this technology provides a convenient experience for drivers. So, drivers can accomplish various tasks without taking their hands off the wheel. This makes voice-enabled assistants more of a must-to-have than a nice-to-have for cars.

Conversational AI transforms current in-car infotainment systems into easy-to-interact digital assistants. By speaking to these systems, drivers can accomplish various tasks and have a fun driving experience: Making a phone call, receiving navigation directions, sending a text or email, learning the weather forecast, and so on. Drivers can do all these things only by speaking to their in-car assistant.

Implementing the Technology

As the adoption of in-car conversational AI rises, more companies will be offering this technology as a given service for their customers. That is why offering these technologies alone will not be enough to differentiate from the competition. As more brands provide such technologies, they will need to find new ways to differentiate from their rivals. Here is a checklist for automotive brands to offer an effective in-car conversational system:

  1. Set Your End Goal

Deploying Conversational AI for the sake of “everybody else is doing it” might be the worst thing you can do for your business. You will need a well-thought strategy before you take any action. To draw a roadmap, you need to set your goal first.  Then, try to discuss within your team the following questions:

  • What do we want to achieve with implementing conversational AI? What is our end goal?
  • How can conversational AI enhance driver experience?
  • What are the main pain points of drivers that we think AI can help solve?
  • How will this solution help them?
  • How can we set up KPIs to monitor progress?
  1. Select the right vendor

Implementing conversational AI solutions is a serious decision that requires a serious amount of time and effort. Collaborating with an expert vendor would make this process easy and seamless. So, while deciding on the technology partner, you’ll work with look for the following capabilities:

  • Expertise on NLP: The performance of a conversational AI system depends on the NLP engine. The language, the linguistics of phonetic spelling, dialects, cultural nuances, and domain-specific terminology determine the effectiveness of NLP engine. So, make sure that you’re working with a vendor who has experience in these areas.
  • UX-oriented approach: UX is all about how a product or solution fits user expectations. In other words, the success of conversational AI depends on its ability to provide a great UX, which is directly related to dialog design skills. To ensure a natural and smooth dialog, you should build conversations that sound more human and less machine. This requires expertise not only in linguistics but also in contextual capabilities. So, your technology provider should have experience in designing smarter dialogs and eventually, smarter systems.
  • Competence in professional services: Conversational AI projects require a rigorous approach. Continuous monitoring and improvement are necessary to ensure an enhanced driver experience. While selecting your technology provider, consider their capabilities in professional services, including customizations, training, implementation, and post-implementation support. Make sure that your technology provider understands your motivation and offers a project management approach accordingly.
  1. Phase the Plan
  • Prepare: Determine the requirements by bringing together your team and your technology provider’s team. Prepare checklists on specifications, installation requirements and KPIs beforehand.
  • Test: Test technology specifications to see if they are implementable in practice. Apply as many internal tests as possible before offering the technology to your customers. So, you can complete user and security testing and apply necessary fixes on time.
  • Monitor: After your project goes live, monitor driver behavior and get as much feedback as possible. These will help you to determine what you need to do to improve UX.
  • Evaluate: The success of any project depends on objective performance evaluation. This requires continuous monitoring and analysis. Conversational Analytics tools can help you measure the effectiveness of the solution and guide you through your next steps for improvement.

 Sestek and In-Car AI

At Sestek, we offer omnichannel conversational AI technology with a wide range of use across multiple channels, including voice IVRs, chatbots, virtual assistants, and intelligent platforms. Lately, we collaborated with TOFAŞ, the leading automotive manufacturer in Turkey. Together we will develop an in-car voice assistant, which will be a first in the industry. Our Conversational AI technology will enable a dialog between the driver and the virtual assistant. Drivers will be able to interact with the assistant by natural speech. The assistant will be able to make sense of what is said and return with the necessary answers, and when it needs additional information, it will be able to request detailed information by asking various questions to the driver.

The assistant will provide route and road status information, recommendations specific to the driving characteristics of the user, and support driving safety with instant verbal warnings.  In this way, a more advanced driving experience will be possible in terms of safety, convenience, and comfort. The most remarkable difference of the application from known virtual assistants is that it can analyze many instant data to be taken from the car. This continuous feedback and analysis will be used to support the driver. To learn more about this project, please click here.

Author: Çağrı Doğan, Accessible Products Consultant, Sestek