Voice control is already quite popular in the home, but it is quickly gaining steam in the car, too, as consumers hope to use services like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri while on the road as well.
According to ABI Research, an increasing number of OEMs are poised to give into popular consumer demands and integrate Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in-vehicle, without the need for a handset and despite concerns over data and OEM-branding. As such, ABI predicts that 20 million vehicles shipping in 2023 will enable one or more of these assistants, without consumers requiring a handset (though it's unlikely anyone would enter a vehicle to go somewhere without their handset anyway.)
"OEMs have realized that an increasing number of consumers may see value in being able to control their smart home devices in-vehicle and tap into their Apple, Amazon, or Google ecosystem while on the move," says Shiv Patel, Smart Mobility & Automotive Analyst at ABI Research. "At the same time, these technology companies are looking to the automotive market as a new business vertical to expand their brand and extract valuable consumer data."
Historically, OEMs have developed their own branded assistants when it comes to embedded voice control, typically in conjunction with key voice technology supplier Nuance. Some OEMs, like BMW and Audi, have chosen instead to adopt a new approach of developing an intermodal, multiple assistant systems in which their own OEM-branded assistants sit alongside an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. For BMW, the BMW Open Mobility Cloud will enable compatibility for both Amazon Alexa as well as Google Assistant. Harman is also enabling OEMs to support both assistants simultaneously through its cloud platform, Harman Ignite. These approaches allow OEMs to meet consumer's requirements of tapping into their growing ecosystems outside of automotive, while still maintaining some control over data and branding. Other OEMs, meanwhile, have given up on voice control altogether and are simply providing a single-assistant system developed by Google.
Both Amazon and Google have announced key partnerships that will see their voice assistants incorporated in the vehicle, without the need for a handset. Google has struck key partnerships with Volvo and Nissan-Renault for a deep in-vehicle integration of Google Maps, Google Play Store, Google Auto, and Google Assistant in-vehicle, while Amazon has announced a key partnership with Audi that will see their voice assistant, Amazon Alexa, work alongside the OEM-branded Audi Assistant in 2019 production vehicles.
These embedded applications provide Amazon and Google an opportunity to expand their brand in automotive as well as provide increased access to important data from the vehicle. Amazon could use the in-vehicle opportunity for its e-commerce business while Google could use this data to feed into new location-based advertising opportunities.
"Overall, these partnerships represent a significant step forward for Amazon and Google as they could pave the way for them to eventually displace OEM-branded assistants in-vehicle altogether and be the sole voice assistant in the vehicle, extending their brand and providing access to new in vehicle data," adds Patel. "Much will be dependent on what the OEMs and market incumbents, such as Nuance, can offer. However, over the short- to medium-term at least, consumers are likely to see an increasing number of vehicles that feature Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, even if it is sitting alongside an OEM branded assistant.
When it comes to voice control in the car, it's not all about Alexa and Google. A demo of Harman's Digital Cockpit showed how Samsung's Bixby AI could interact with and control various devices inside and out of the vehicle, alongside Harman's Intelligent Reasoning Agent (IRA). Photo by Ted Kritsonis