VW Explores Voice Controlled Vehicle Functions

Volkswagen is leading the move to enabling vehicle functions to be taken over by voice assistants raising the possibility of the technology having a mission critical role in future.

So far, carmakers has restricted voice assistant technology to providing information and setting satellite navigation destinations. Now, VW’s new Golf will boast three-zone automatic air conditioner “Air Care Climatronic” that can be operated through the vehicle’s voice assistant.

Drivers and passengers can ask the system to alter the climate functions available such as asking for “warm feet” or for a “clear view” through the misted-up windscreen completely handsfree. Cabin occupants can also request pre-selected settings when entering the car to achieve the climate control that are their favorite scenarios.

The automaker says it has identified five frequently used scenarios and transferred them to the smart climate menu. The functions are “Clear view”, “Warm feet” heating the footwell, “Warm hands” through dashboard vents, “Cool feet” in the footwell and “Fresh air” to blow cool breeze through the vehicle interior. Smart functions are always only activated temporarily to briefly enhance current well-being before reverting to the previously active settings of the automatic air conditioner.

Digital microphones in the Golf also recognize whether it is the driver or the passenger saying “I am cold” or “I am warm” and the system claims the ability to change temperature on the driver side or passenger side for each command.

While an interesting gimmick, the use of a broader role for voice assistant raises the prospect of controlling mission critical functions, such as using the vehicle’s directional indicators, engaging cruise control and even activating an on-board autopilot function. Naturally, the ability to control these more important driver functions could speed up the interaction between human and machine particularly in Level 4 handover situations.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_




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