Chatbot Tracker: Speaking To Cars Via Smartcar

Back in the ‘80s, Knight Rider was a television show that featured not only the great David Hasselhoff but also his trusty sidekick (and car), KITT. Through the use of advanced artificial intelligence, Hasselhoff was able to have conversations with KITT.

Movies will likely always involve some aspect of projecting what the future could be like.

The latest technological development that’s been a hot topic over the past year has been chatbots, due mostly to Facebook’s unveiling of its Messenger platform with embedded chatbots in April 2016. Since its inception, there have been a reported 100,000 bots developed for the social media giant’s platform, and in September 2016, payment processing was added as a new feature.

Over the past decade, significant advances have been made in terms of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing that are bringing interaction with machines to the forefront. While KITT hasn’t become a full-on reality yet, the technology industry is getting closer.

One app that’s helping move the needle on a KITT-esque talking vehicle is Mountain View-based Smartcar. Although the intelligent connected car platform app is still just three years old, it has recently gained two significant partnerships: Tesla and Hyundai. PYMNTS sat down with Smartcar’s CEO and Founder, Sahas Katta, to learn more about its offering and how its integration with chatbots will change the car industry.

While Smartcar’s work with Hyundai’s Ioniq platform and its Bluelink vehicles is still in the works, all cylinders are a go for Tesla.

Just late last month, Smartcar unveiled its new artificial intelligence-powered bot for Tesla model S and X vehicles dubbed TeslaBot, which is available through the vehicle manufacturer’s virtual assistant, Elon, available on Facebook Messenger. Through the use of TeslaBot, anyone owning a Tesla will be able to operate various aspects of their car through voice commands.

While the TeslaBot is likely serving as the pilot for what’s possible with chatbot car integration, Katta shared what’s currently possible. “The Teslabot can assist a vehicle owner with several vehicle-related functions, including locating their vehicle, locking/unlocking doors, monitoring charging, remotely cooling down/warming up the car and much more.”

The voice aspect may come in a similar format to how Facebook Messenger’s chatbot offering has operated over the past year. Consumers now have the possibility to speak directly to businesses via the Messenger chat system and, as mentioned above, payments has been interwoven into the mix.

Customer service accessibility is a key part of almost any business. The quicker, and perhaps more convenient, it is to connect with a business representative today to resolve issues, the more successful that organization will be. In today’s fast-paced, tech-savvy environment, expedient customer service has become the cornerstone of successful businesses. The car industry is no different.

“There’s already convenient features, such as retrieving your VIN or odometer reading for you if you happen to be filling out a form for insurance,” said Katta. “We see a major revolution of chatbots helping identify issues with a vehicle, scheduling an appointment and much more without having to get on a phone call.”

As with any additional technology introduced in the car industry, the concern of safety is a key area that tends to arise. From cell phones to video screens and tablets, there are a number of ways drivers can get distracted from focusing on the road.

“Voice assistants are a great way to keep drivers focused on driving and prevent people from having to fiddle with their phone or infotainment system. In the future, will remind you if you forget to plug in your car before going to bed or let you know if your vehicle’s siren has been set off. It will alert you when you have a flat tire with a message or even alert family on your behalf when you are in a crash.”

If chatbots continue to make their way into more vehicle integrations, it’s likely that we’ll see not only enhanced safety features but additional streamlined home and office offerings. The automotive industry has already seen office tech enter its sphere, with Harman’s partnership with Microsoft to integrate its Office 365 Suite into cars. Instead of staying late at the office to finish up work, people can finish up during the half hour ride home in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

Over the course of the next few years, the automotive industry will likely see a complete evolution in what’s possible to accomplish while sitting in the driver’s seat.