Car Advice

The car feature you never use, but should

Very few people use voice recognition in their cars, but maybe they could save time, and improve safety.

In fact, some people don’t even realise their car can do voice recognition.  If there’s a little button like the one in the title image, usually on the steering wheel, then your car can recognise your voice and it’ll do things on command.  Well, some things, tasks relating to non-driving tasks.  A typical list is:
  • climate – change fan speed, temperate
  • navigation – enter addresses, look up places, cancel navigation
  • music – change volume, source of music, skip forwards or backwards
  • phone controls – make phonecalls, have text messages read to you, reply with preset messages
I’ve made a point of testing voice recognition systems on cars and out of the list above I find climate next to useless.  It is much quicker and easier to just reach over and adjust it manually.  Same deal for most of the music commands.
 
Navigation is different.  The keypresses involved to do something like cancel navigation can be irritatingly complex, so a voice command can cut through.  Similarly, it can be quicker to use voice to navigate to say a friend’s address.  And most navigation systems don’t permit input while moving, so voice can get around that limitation.
 
Phone, or rather communication is a useful voice-control task.  It is easier to say a person’s name and have the system look up the number than it is to go scrolling through menus.  Don’t worry, all systems do check with you that they got the number right before they call!  And same deal for text messages, can be handy to have one read to you.
 
Voice recognition is definitely useful, but the downside is its effectiveness.  This can vary quite widely and is dependent on how well three factors gel – you, the system, and what you’re trying to say.  In some cars certain commands and names work very well, but in the same situation I’ve then spend fifteen minutes trying to get it to recognise a friend’s name.  When I finally got it I have no idea what I did differently, but it worked.  In general, I’d say that my first command in a new car works maybe 80% of the time, and in the last year I’ve not failed to have the system do what I want.
 
Go on, give voice recognition a try.  It has improved over the last few years, and is getting better – systems can now even learn their owners’ voices.  And it’s safer, as you can keep your eyes on the road.  It is even quicker for some tasks.  
 
Have some friends in the car, because if it turns out your system is no good then you’ll have a lot of fun learning its limitations!


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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper