Why Auto OEMs Should Seriously Consider Their In-Car Digital Companion Strategy

why auto OEMs should think about their custom in-car digital companion
The automotive industry is rapidly changing, and in-car digital companions will be a crucial component of the in-car experience going forward.

Throughout the last few years, voice assistants have rapidly transitioned from a thing of the future to the new norm. According to recent data from Statista, in 2019, about 3.25 billion voice assistants were used in devices across the globe — 110 million in the United States alone. And by 2022, they predict those numbers will nearly double to 6.41 billion users. As voice interfaces continue to shape our experiences at work and home, it’s natural that their presence will expand even further into other aspects of our lives where they’re already at play, from our appliances, to our wearables, home robotics, and, perhaps most importantly, our cars.

Soon, cars — the vehicles by which we spend an immense portion of our time — will inevitably become the third space for voice to dominate, not just via voice assistants, but with fully fledged digital companion agents for mobility. Digital companions are the natural evolution of digital assistants, replacing utilitarian voice command with a bidirectional human-machine relationship based on empathy, trust, and anticipation of needs. How might that look within the car?

Imagine something that brings a car to life, proactively anticipating users’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, while building trust and enforcing the automaker’s brand. Context-aware, character-based AI agents that use a myriad of data — and perform the executive function of aggregating all of the car’s sensory data into one place, to sense, understand, decide, and act accordingly. Unlike agents designed primarily for the home, an agent designed specifically for mobility not only has the massive potential to keep us safer on the road, it would help streamline and control all of the car’s vital features — like adjusting settings for inclement weather, alerting us about urgent maintenance needs and flat tires, facilitating handoffs, parking, and otherwise.

Having this type of technology within the car would completely revolutionize the in-car experience, creating a new dynamic in which people and mobility agents work together as teammates, side by side. Ultimately, each ride becomes an opportunity to inform, delight and assist users, while keeping them safe and building trust. Let’s take a closer look at the case for digital companion agents for mobility: what aspects they’ll encompass, the massive opportunities and benefits they bring to the table, and their integral role in the future of automotive.

Shifting towards experience-centered mobility

Consumers today are already selecting cars based on their in-car features and capabilities. A recent survey conducted by VoiceBot.AI found that over 60% of surveyed consumers factor voice assistants into their car purchasing decisions, and over 70% of smart speaker owners tend to do so. Going forward, demand for in-car tech innovation will likely continue to grow, as users begin to care less about conventional driving features, and more about the type of immersive in-car experience their car can provide. This shift shouldn’t be too surprising, as many cars are already equipped with voice assistants, cameras, and sensors that monitor drivers and their surrounding environments.

The next generation of mobility will take this a step further — cars will be packed with even more sensors and interfaces, which the digital mobility agent would use, along with proprietary algorithms, to study its user and environment and actively anticipate their needs and preferences, to effectively understand if, when, and how to optimally engage each user while building their trust. This way, the agent can execute the right type of interaction at the opportune moment — not merely through voice, but via multiple enticing modalities like speech, screens, LEDs, and otherwise, for a comprehensive, fully customized in-car experience.

And this personalized experience could take on many shapes and forms for each individual user — whether it’s intuitively knowing their seating and thermostat preferences for increased in-cabin comfort; understanding just how comfortable they are with parallel parking; knowing how to keep them alert when drowsiness is detected; or learning how to effectively talk them through a lane clearance. By creating their own distinct, branded in-car agent, OEMs have the unique opportunity to completely transform the in-car experience, amplifying both drivers and their brand like never before.

Other substantial benefits of an in-car digital companion include the ability to:

  • Keep drivers safe, focused and stimulated
  • Help users discover and adopt new features
  • Drive specific outcomes, such as app usage
  • Maintain sole access to invaluable user data
  • Effectively manage handoff compliance
  • Easily update various in-car experiences

Driving into the future with digital companion agents

the digital cockpit of the future
the digital cockpit of the future
A visualization of what the future “digital cockpit” display might look like for drivers.

As our cars become more intelligent than ever, it’s clear that a massive transformation in the automotive arena as we know it is on the horizon. From data and experience ownership, to brand differentiation, user attachment, feature discovery and beyond, the enormous number of benefits that mobility agents can provide are truly boundless. With digital mobility companions paving the way, we’ll soon move towards a new type of dynamic, in which people and mobility agents team up together harmoniously, amplifying drivers and brands like never before.

While technology for mobility rapidly expands and evolves, right now is an incredibly exciting turning point for automakers, an immense opportunity just waiting to be explored. The time has arrived for automotive’s biggest visionaries and innovators to make their mark, and shape the next generation of in-car experience. Regardless of where the industry’s headed, mobility agents are fully equipped to roll with the punches — flexible, adaptable and customizable for whatever changes may arise. And the sooner automakers begin to design, develop and integrate their own distinct, branded mobility agents, the more of an advantage they’ll ascertain in the future of the industry.

This content was originally published on the Intuition Robotics blog. Read the full article to learn more about what auto OEMs stand to gain by creating a custom in-car digital companion agent of their own.

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