In 2017 the UK passed a law making it illegal to use your phone while driving. The UK has always had strong driving laws, and rightly so, the difference with this law were the consequences. If you are caught using your phone while driving, you will get fined £200 and six points on your licence even if stopped at a red light. If you passed your test in the last two years, you would lose your licence completely.
So, you only have two options if you want to engage with the connected world when in your car, you can control music and make calls via the existing dashboard-based infotainment system or adopt voice as the primary interface.
Automakers are jumping onboard with voice now as consumers are ready, safety will be dramatically improved, and the law is forcing them too. Enterprises such as Amazon, IBM, Google and Microsoft are pushing hard on providing their platforms and services for cars and voice, with the aim of controlling the in-car experience.
Going fully voice-driven today isn’t though without its risk, voice assistants aren’t 100% there yet as they still interpret things incorrectly. But more importantly, we still get angry with them for doing so. Getting angry with technology is apart of the process of that technology developing. This is fine when you’re in the kitchen chopping tomatoes, but when you’re driving a 1-ton metal box moving at 70 mph, this is something to be cautious about.
Distraction is a leading cause of accidents on our roads, and with new laws, in place, people need an alternative because no matter the risk people are going to use their phones still. You see people texting and face-timing while driving (Yes, I have seen a driver face-timing on the motorway at 70 mph).
The perfect training ground
A car is a great place for voice because of our need to be hands-free, but also it is where we spend the most time alone. The average UK daily commute is 57 minutes; people use this time to enjoy the silence, listen to music, hear books or have phone calls. But for many people, this commute time is both wasted time in their busy day and frustrating time that could be more wisely utilised.
I have used Siri on my phone completely hands-free in the car for a long time and recently added an Amazon Echo dot to my car (powered by USB and tethered to my phone’s 4G) to see how it would change my driving experience and could I start doing more as I drove. So far it has been great to control music, listen to audiobooks, update navigation, call people, ask random facts and query upcoming traffic.
So far, the Echo has not provided me much more than my experience with Siri though the voice recognition is much better. I know with the Amazon Echo I can do more, I need some car optimised skills. I could be reading emails, reviewing documents, building up this week’s food shop or reporting potholes, congestion or even accidents. All this I could do during my commute, freeing me up time.
If you interacted with your voice assistant for 10 minutes a day on your commute alone, that is 40 hours a year; your voice accuracy is going to get to near 100% perfect before long.
Fast forward ten years
Over the next ten years, we are going to see assisted driving grow at an exponential rate, technologies such as Tesla’s autopilot will make us safer drivers (until we don’t even have to drive). These assisted driving technologies will also reduce our cognitive load of driving and having to watch everything around us, meaning we can engage with doing other things.
Voice is the obvious way we will interact in the car and as we use voice interfaces more over the next ten years our usage of it in the car will grow. Increasing from 0 minutes to 30 minutes a day as we use this normally dead time in our day to get all the boring jobs out of the way.
What do you wish you could do on your commute to work?