“I’m Casey, your new passenger. Are you ready to get started?” Voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Google, Cortana, and Bixby have taken charge of smart households, control lighting and the vacuum cleaner – Bosch now puts the voice assistant behind the wheel. The newly developed technology frees drivers from distractions so that they can concentrate on their essential task. “When drivers get into a modern car, they can sometimes feel like an airplane pilot – buttons, screens, a confusing menu navigation with a thousand sub-menus. Bosch is putting an end to the button chaos in the cockpit. Instead, we turn the voice assistant into a passenger,” says Dr. Dirk Hoheisel, Member of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch GmbH. The assistant, who responds to the name “Casey” the first time the driver gets in, makes driving safer as well as more comfortable. According to a study from the Allianz Center for Technology, German car drivers are frequently distracted when, for instance, they operate the navigation system, adjust the air conditioning, or answer a phone call. This kind of distraction is one of the primary causes of road accidents.
Responds to every word – even offline
Voice command functions of the past offered little help in this respect. They are frequently structured as a menu of possible options. The driver must commit the structure to memory and read the required commands from the display, and that is just as distracting. “Say what you want the way you want to say it – Bosch puts a voice assistant in the car who understands the driver just like another person would,” says Hoheisel. The Bosch assistant no longer responds to rigidly worded commands.
The voice recognition system understands natural sentence structures and can even handle accents and dialects, and it does so in more than 30 countries of the world. English is not simply English for the talented linguist Casey; she speaks a British, American, New Zealand, or Australian dialect. More than a decade of work has been invested in the development of the voice control. Casey can do something that goes beyond the capabilities of even well-known competitors. She thinks ahead and learns. If, for instance, the driver wants to call “Paul”, the system automatically reviews the contacts and considers the driver’s present location, time, and situation before responding. When on the way to the office in the morning, “Paul” probably means the colleague at work while the same name in the evening might refer to the best friend. To make sure, Casey asks a question: “I have found five contacts called Paul. Do you want to call Paul Stevenson?” This dependency on context is a first stage of artificial intelligence.
Another bit of sophisticated technology: the driver can, for example, also enter destination addresses in France in French – without having to make any changes in the settings manually. One example: “Take me to Champ de Mars, Cinq Avenue Anatole Paris.” Casey automatically understands the destination and calculates the route to the Eiffel Tower. What’s more: the Bosch assistant has no need whatsoever of an external data connection. The infotainment system in the car takes over the calculation without sending any data to the cloud. Casey even stays with the drivers in tunnels, when far away from areas with good mobile network coverage, or in other countries when the smartphone is offline.
Responds to any name
The conversation in the car becomes even more personal when the driver christens the assistant with the name of his or her choice. The days are past when the voice command system responded only to the name given by the manufacturer. Regardless of whether it is called “Casey”, “Michael”, or “Linda”, the Bosch voice recognition system understands and speaks 30 different languages with a total of 44 female and 9 male voices. The driver activates the assistant by calling out “Hey, Casey” or uses the new name given to the assistant. The driver starts every new dialog simply by speaking directly to the assistant; no longer does the driver have to wait for a peep before starting to talk.