Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the NMA Blog in April 2018. We felt it still has resonance today.
I admit…I have always named my cars and talked to them too. Not because I am a lonely and sad person but because I want to imbue good feelings in my space—talking to my car seems to do that for me. Every car should have a bit of personality that makes it ours. How can something so intimate and personal that we use every day not?
Of course, a car ultimately is a tool that gets us from one place to another. Up until now, talking to a car has been one sided but in the near future that could change.
Are we ready for our cars to become extensions of our smart phones or virtual assistants that can help us navigate unfamiliar streets, tell us how much wiper fluid we have or which Thai restaurant is nearby?
We are at the dawn of the Internet of Things—and our cars are indeed a thing.
Most of my experience with talking to a thing and it kind of talking back has been with my IPhone’s Siri app. Even though the voice recognition gets better each year, I have very little luck with Siri understanding what I say and I know I do not mumble—honest. Hilarity seems to ensue each time I use Siri but is that what I want when I’m driving?
I just hope talking to my car and it trying to hear me won’t be like that 2001 Verizon TV commercial campaign “Can you hear me now?’ or even worse, an Alexa Backseat Driver.
Creating voice recognition for cars has become just one of the touchstones between the tech and the automaker world. Automakers take seven years for product development while tech companies take considerably less. They both seem to be wrestling for dominance in this space and tech is certainly winning.
Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri), Google (Voice), and Microsoft (Cortana) have been working diligent to build AI personal assistants with voice recognition. I am not a Luddite by any means but I just don’t have the time to figure out why I cannot order something online by voice control or how to get my Google Maps App to work. If I were to ever use an AI personal assistant device, I certainly would not want it to act out like HAL on 2001: Space Odyssey.
Can you imagine trying to get your car to do something and it acts as if you don’t exist—is this a hassle we really need while driving?
Of course, it would be wickedly fun to have your car hold a conversation with you while you drive…your car obviously would learn all kinds of secrets about you—where you’re going and when, what you talked about inside the car, your preferred coffee shop and it even could spot you 10 feet away and unlock the door for you before you arrive seconds later.
Why does this all seem kind of creepy?
If we choose to use these devices and software inside our car there are a number of questions that we need to answer first:
- If we buy a new car, will we have a choice not to use an AI inside the car?
- Can we tolerate an AI device always listening and hanging on every word?
- Do we want to lose that much privacy of not only the listening but maybe even the watching of us to see if we are alert enough to drive?
- What about all the information gathered by the AI—who would own that data and if we did, could we sell it ourselves to marketers and make a bit of cash?
- If we don’t own the information gathered on us, who does and what will they do with it?
- If we choose to use an AI in the car, how can we prevent our personal AI from being hacked? The AI would store not only our conversations but information about where we go, what is going on with the car itself and even information about our own health with the constant monitoring.
- The gathering of all the information on us would use more power which decreases our fuel efficiency and we would pay more at the pump or electric charge. Can we afford that on top of any connectivity fees that we would have to probably pay?
- Who would pay for all the cloud storage needed for all the information gathered on us?
- Overall, would the AI make us a safer driver or an even more distracted driver?
I think it would be great fun to have an AI talking with me when I drive, but I don’t really need it to get from point A to point B and back again. It seems more of a hassle than it is worth to me and why should others profit from my information?
In a 2016 McKinsey firm report, analysts estimated that by 2030 automakers or tech companies could reap between $450 billion and $750 billion in revenue from car-generated data. Most of this cash would come from digital marketers who would now know even more about my needs, wants, and desires based on information gleamed inside my car.
The worse part of all this connectivity would be that if I don’t want marketers or advertisers pounding me with targeted advertising, I would have to pay an additional monthly fee just like I do now for my Roku app on my phone and my CBS All Access app just to have an advertising free experience.
I like to drive, but do I really need all these bells and whistles to enjoy the experience? I think I’ll keep talking to my car but for now maybe its okay she doesn’t talk back.
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