Hyundai, Kia Vehicles Gaining AI Assistants in 2019

The rise of voice assistants such as the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo in recent years has shown the viability of artificial intelligence in the home. It’s no secret why.

The ability to manifest a thought by simply speaking it out loud is an incredibly powerful, and frictionless, experience. You can put on your favorite music without scrolling through a streaming app. You can set up a reminder for yourself without entering it into a calendar. You can add an item to your grocery list without having a physical grocery list. You can even orderthose very groceries all by uttering a single sentence.

If you think about it, though, the home is not even the place where a voice assistant has the most potential. Sure, it’s a convenience, but putting down what you’re doing for a second to perform a task on your computer or phone isn’t the worst thing in the world. When you’re driving a car, however, a few taps on your phone can become a matter of life and death.

That’s why many experts believe that automobiles represent a more significant growth space for voice assistant technology.

Hyundai and Kia certainly do. The South Korean automakers both plan to launch artificial intelligence-based voice assistant services in select new vehicles beginning in 2019, with a goal of including the technology in all new vehicles by the year 2025.

The automakers, which are both part of Hyundai Motor Group, are currently developing a product known as Intelligent Personal Agent that will perform tasks in and out of the vehicle, as well as give users requested information like weather and traffic conditions.

“Sophisticated voice recognition and AI integration are core to effectively providing drivers with the massive content and data that future connected vehicles have to offer,” Hyundai director of infotainment development Paul Choo wrote in a statement. “These elements play a key role in delivering connected-car-generated information.”

The project is a collaboration with AI company SoundHound, and will be based upon the preexisting Houndify platform. The Houndify website touts capabilities like “deep meaning understanding,” “conversational intelligence” and multilingual text to speech. Companies that already offer products based on the Houndify platform include Yelp, Uber and Expedia.

“We spent a decade developing Houndify, the most advanced voice AI platform, to enable partners the ability to create customized experiences for their products,” SoundHound founder and CEO Keyvan Mohajer noted. “We are thrilled to work with Hyundai Motor to revolutionize the in-car experience.”

Much like Amazon Echo owners get the attention of their device with the prompt of “Alexa,” future Hyundai owners will activate their car’s AI system with the simple phrase “Hi, Hyundai.” The list of functions will be extensive. Using their voice, drivers will be able to open and close car doors and change the temperature inside the vehicle. They’ll be able to control infotainment systems, setting the destination for a navigation system or queuing up a favorite podcast. They’ll even be able to remotely control IoT-connected items in their home like thermostats or security systems. More services are expected to be added in the future.

In advance of the 2019 rollout, Hyundai and Kia demonstrated the new AI capabilities of the Intelligent Personal Agent at the CES trade show in Las Vegas in January.

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