This might make me weird, but I don’t think that I’m alone in talking to my car. After a long trip, I give it a pat on the dashboard and tell it, “Good job, bud,” or it gets a quick “‘Atta girl” after a jaunt on a fun, curvy road. It never says anything back to me, but if the folks at BMW have their way, that’s about to change.
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BMW is following the steps of Google, Amazon and Apple to introduce its own digital assistant, which the driver will activate by voice command. Unlike those other companies, however, BMW isn’t attaching a cute human name to what it calls the Intelligent Personal Assistant. Instead, it lets you choose a name for it (the examples BMW provided were “Charlie” or “Joy,” but I’d rather go with something like “Geoffrey”). In the car, the assistant activates when you say, “Hey, BMW.” No word on whether or not Mercedes would work as a name.
It’s designed to emulate existing voice-assistant technologies and use learning algorithms to provide tailored settings for the driver. This means it will help with queries on the road like “find a gas station near me” or “play classical music,” but it will also learn your routines and habits to remember common destinations and climate preferences.
BMW’s assistant can also tie driver inquiries to car functions. For example, tell the system you’re cold to prompt the assistant to raise the temperature in the car (because cranking a dial is so hard). Or say you’re tired so it adjusts lighting, climate and even music to help perk you up. BMW also says that the assistant will help with maintenance and notify the driver if, say, tire pressure is low. It can also answer questions about the car itself, schedule service appointments and check oil levels.
This technology will make its way into U.S. vehicles starting in March 2019. Eventually, BMW says owners will have access to the assistant via smartphone or a smart speaker at home, where it can also interact with other digital voice assistants. Now there’s a party waiting to happen.
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