In-Car Voice Makes Itself Heard at CES

CES, connected cars, automotive

Before CES even opened to the industry, in-car voice technology was making itself heard. On Monday (Jan. 3), the first of two media days preceding the opening of the show, connected mobility supplier Cerence received an award for its in-car voice assistant, Mercedes-Benz released details about two voice technologies featured on its new prototype electric car and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) projected that auto tech will grow 7% in 2022. 

Read more: Connected Cars to Strut Their Stuff at CES 

These companies are among more than 200 from the transportation and vehicle technology industry — a record number for the event — represented at this year’s edition of the annual tech event. A total of 2,200 companies are taking part in person or in the event’s digital venues.

Proactively Delivering Information to Drivers 

On Monday, Cerence received a CES 2022 Innovation Award for Cerence Co-Pilot, its new in-car voice assistant that is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

The assistant not only responds to voice commands, but also uses data from the car’s sensors to understand situations inside and outside the vehicle and proactively deliver information when it’s needed. For example, as the vehicle nears the driver’s home, Cerence Co-Pilot may ask if they’d like it to initiate a smart home routine. This in-car voice assistant also integrates with cloud services. 

“AI is deeply fundamental to the future of mobility, and we see our role as critical, not only in bringing convenient, enjoyable and safe experiences to drivers, but also giving OEMs the ability to maintain control of their brands and data while still giving drivers the secure, seamless and personalized connected experiences they want,” Cerence CEO Stefan Ortmanns said in a press release. 

Sounding Impressively Real, Natural and Intuitive 

On the same day, Mercedes-Benz previewed two voice technologies that will be displayed on its VISION EQXX, a research prototype car featuring an electric drivetrain and advanced software. The automaker says this prototype demonstrates its transformation into “an all-electric and software-driven company.” 

One voice technology featured on the VISION EQXX makes it “fun to talk to,” Mercedes-Benz says. Developed in collaboration with voice synthesis experts Sonantic and with the help of machine learning, this version of the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant has a distinctive character and personality. 

“As well as sounding impressively real, the emotional expression places the conversation between driver and car on a completely new level that is more natural and intuitive,” Mercedes-Benz said in a press release. 

The second voice-related technology previewed by Mercedes-Benz features neuromorphic computing, a form of information processing that reduces energy consumption, and AI software and hardware from BrainChip that is five to 10 times more efficient than conventional voice control. 

“Although neuromorphic computing is still in its infancy, systems like these will be available on the market in just a few years,” Mercedes-Benz said. “When applied on scale throughout a vehicle, they have the potential to radically reduce the energy needed to run the latest AI technologies.” 

Growing Demand for Automotive Tech 

Also on Jan. 3, CTA announced that it projects that factory-installed automotive tech will grow 7% this year — from $14.9 billion in shipment revenues in 2021 to $16 billion in 2022 — driven by the beginning of a recovery in chip supplies as well as greater demand. 

“Demand for automotive tech is increasing as auto manufacturers produce more and continue to develop advanced driver assistance systems that make vehicles more efficient and safer,” the association said when announcing the release of its twice-yearly “U.S. Consumer Technology One-Year Industry Forecast.” 

In other vehicle tech news from CES, VinFast announced that customers in the U.S. and Vietnam will be able to make reservations for its first two electric vehicle models beginning Wednesday (Jan. 5) and that it will use blockchain technologies to certify reservations, payments and eventually vehicle ownership.