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Voice Control In Cars: Where Are We Headed?

Voice control car systems are already everywhere. But how can your brand use the technology in a rapidly changing landscape?

March 29, 2023 by Gaea Vilage
Voice Control In Cars: Where Are We Headed?

When drivers talk to car voice assistants, whose customers are they? Which brand gets to engage with the passive audience of drivers during their average daily 27.6-minute U.S. commute?

These are key questions as our automobiles continue a long, slow transition from conveyance vehicles into the world’s largest consumer mobile devices. Increasingly, conversations between brands and consumers take place behind the wheel.

Here’s why voice control car systems are sparking a fierce battle for consumer attention—and what your brand can do to grab a share of high-value face time with customers.

Voice Control Car Systems and Brand Recognition: The Current Landscape

About 125 million U.S. drivers use voice control technology in cars today. As the capabilities of in-car voice systems expand, we can expect more users to take advantage. Today, drivers can speak to in-car voice assistants to accomplish a wide range of hands-free tasks, including:

  • Setting navigational goals and listening to directions while en route
  • Placing and receiving hands-free calls
  • Accessing interactive car manuals and having the system read relevant sections out loud
  • Getting information from voice assistants about everything from the nearest gas station to internet search results
  • Placing orders at restaurants, cafes, and consumer-goods stores
  • Operating infotainment systems like the radio and audio streaming services
  • Controlling car systems: in-car temperatures, windshield wiper operation, door locks, and more

Which company provides these services? There are (at least) three industries vying for driver attention through voice command car systems. These competitors include:

  • Established smart assistants from big tech companies. Ford and Lincoln offer Amazon Alexa Built-In, bringing the ubiquitous voice assistant to vehicles. Volvo, General Motors, Polestar, and Renault are going with Android Automotive OS. Through these partnerships, existing smart assistants are increasingly finding their way into car control systems.
  • Smartphone and device manufacturers. In addition to Android Automotive OS—a software development kit (SDK) for in-car voice assistants—Google offers the confusingly named Android Auto, which tethers Android phones to car infotainment systems. Apple’s CarPlay connects iPhones to cabin displays, with full Siri voice assistant support. And Spotify rolled out Car Thing, a touchscreen/voice device with a built-in voice assistant and access to Spotify streaming services—and a lifelike synthetic voice from ReadSpeaker. (Learn more about the Spotify/Readspeaker collaboration in our case study below.)
  • Car manufacturers themselves. Higher-end automotive manufacturers like Tesla, Mercedes, and BMW offer their own, in-house car voice assistants.

Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are weighing the benefits and making their calls on car voice assistants. If they go with Google, Apple, or Amazon voice assistants, they can save a lot of development costs. But if they stock their cars with in-house voice control systems, they retain all the brand equity—and control the customer data.

Right now, the car voice assistant ecosystem is in its Wild West stage of development. How will that play out in the next decade or so?

The Future of Voice Control Technology for Cars

Cars are changing quickly. Investments in self-driving vehicle technology have already skyrocketed, and some market analysts predict the industry expanding at a compound annual growth rate of over 13% through 2030, with 65 million self-driving units on the road by that year. No one knows when the transition will begin in earnest—but it seems likely that some level of autonomous driving will become commonplace sooner rather than later.

Expect to see driver behavior change during this transition. With more free time during the commute, consumers will increasingly catch up on news, listen to streaming services—and their ads—and even spend time shopping while they drive.

What does that mean for brands? Good news: As long as the voice platforms allow it, every brand can interact with customers while they drive. The key is to have recognizable, unique, and branded voices for cars.

Car Voice Case Study: ReadSpeaker TTS for Spotify’s Car Thing

In September 2021, audio streaming leader Spotify announced its use of ReadSpeaker’s TTS technology to deliver custom voices for a new project in the U.S.: a limited release of Spotify’s Car Thing, a smart player for your car. ReadSpeaker’s technology currently powers the custom TTS voice available in Car Thing.

Spotify chose the ReadSpeaker’s technology because of the company’s deep expertise in custom branded voices powered by deep neural networks. ReadSpeaker’s embedded and cloud-based solutions—and a broad range of natural-sounding pre-made voices—were also key differentiators as Spotify searched for a voice partner.

“As voice assistants gain popularity and companies look to develop their own custom voices to audibly personify their brands in the era of voice-enabled technology, Spotify is leading the charge in creating a seamless, multimodal experience for users,” said Roy Lindemann, CMO at ReadSpeaker. “As leaders in our respective industry areas, this partnership is particularly exciting. We challenge each other around the voice field, and each comes up with ideas and strives to drive the boundaries of innovation even further.”

Interested in learning more about custom branded voices? Imagine what your branded voice persona will sound like by visiting readspeaker.com.

How to Control Brand Expression in Voice Control Car Systems

Brands build relationships through unique assets: language tone, color schemes, logos. In a voice-first environment like a voice control car system, you only have audio to build brand equity. And the literal voice you use in these channels is the core of your audio branding persona.

To build connections with consumers, this voice must be consistent across channels. It must reflect your brand personality perfectly. And it must differentiate you from the Alexas and Siris of the world.

Accomplish this goal with a custom brand voice—and in voice AI systems, that means text to speech (TTS). ReadSpeaker builds lifelike branded TTS voices to keep brand equity where it belongs: with your brand. Our team of speech scientists relies on the latest deep learning technology to make sure your brand voice sounds incredible across voice channels, including the ones that drivers use. As an experienced provider of synthetic voices for Android applications, ReadSpeaker is the ideal TTS partner for voice assistants built on Android Automotive OS—and our flexible deployments are compatible with virtually any in-car voice system, new or established.

As drivers interact more and more with voice control car systems, make sure your brand is there to meet them. Contact ReadSpeaker to start building your unique TTS voice.

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