Published: August 8, 2014
HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey
By Richard Read, special from The Car Connection
Be honest: you hate your car's voice recognition software, right? We're not talking about Siri or Google or Cortana or some other system that works via your smartphone, we're talking about the one that an automaker installed in your car. The one that gets you more worked up than a heated conversation with your husband or your wife or that guy who cold-calls you about toner cartridges? That one.
Well, you're not alone. According to J.D. Power's Kristin Kolodge, most voice recognition software that automakers have created to make driving "easier" has precisely the opposite effect.
Kolodge made those comments this week at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars in Michigan. To support her statements, she referred directly to Power's most recent Initial Quality Study, which showed an uptick in problems that consumers experienced within the first 90 days of owning their new cars.
While some of those problems were attributed to a glut of new and redesigned models that suffered from lingering kinks, many were also due to the dodgy technology underlying in-car infotainment systems. And among all problems reported by consumers, voice recognition was the most common.
This isn't shocking news. For years, many of us have argued that automakers need to get out of the infotainment business altogether. They should focus instead on building solid cars that can integrate voice recognition, phone-syncing, and other features designed by the people who spend most of their waking hours creating such things (e.g. Apple, Google, and their partners). Kolodge tried to cut car companies some slack, noting that the interior of an automobile can be full of noise and chatter, making it difficult for voice recognition systems to work properly. And she has a point, but our iPhones don't seem to have the same problem.
Kolodge says automakers need to go back to the drawing board. We say they should put the drawing board on Craigslist and let smartphones (or in-car systems designed by smartphone makers) handle the job.