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How automotive HMI and Voice AI are shaping the new in-car experience

 

In-car technology and the automotive user experience influence car-buying as much as safety, comfort, and drivability for some consumers. These drivers are looking for easy-to-use digital interfaces and tools that promote productivity, efficiency, and an enjoyable ride. HMI and Voice play a growing role in automotive UX, and they are advancing at an exponential pace. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, for example, features new voice capabilities aimed at creating more natural and useful interactivity. 

But the more advanced AI gets, the greater the expectations consumers have for the experience. “When it just feels so natural to talk to their car, people expect that it’s just as smart as a human being,” Wolfgang Klein said in the podcast.

For OEMs and their partners, getting HMI and Voice right requires a combination of smart design, advanced engineering, and a holistic understanding of customer wants, needs, and brand expectations. It is challenging but exciting work, and the best part is we have just scratched the surface of what is possible. 

HMI and Voice are just two of the trends shaping the automotive user experience. For a complete guide to the future of Automotive Retail, download Star’s automotive trends report today.

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The fun and thought-provoking discussion explored automotive HMI and Voice trends, changes. Key insights included:

  • Cars are competing with smartphones: When it comes to in-car UX, automobile brands aren’t just competing with one another, they are competing with smartphones, Mihai Antonescu explained. Designers must create in-car systems that are as effective and user-centric as a consumer’s mobile device. “We have to make our system as easy as possible for them to not even second guess it, and make it feel so natural that they just get in the car and use it,” he said.
  • UX and design can make good on marketing: The in-car experience, including the Voice Assistant and digital interfaces, should reflect a brand’s values and support its identity. Nils Schanz noted a Voice Assistant can even differentiate a car from competitors and strengthen consumers’ connection with the brand.
  • It’s user-first, not voice-first: The automotive design space experienced a Voice-only/Voice-first movement, but Mihai Antonescu realizes “Voice can’t get the job done alone.” Nils Schanz agreed, explaining he doesn’t compare Voice capabilities to graphical user interfaces, but rather thinks of how to use them in tandem. What you don’t want to do is “impose any one way for the user to achieve one goal,” Wolfgang Klein noted.
  • Modern cars are like horses: The guests used a number of metaphors to describe the evolution of automotive UX and the future of Voice AI. They also chatted about the famous actors they like just because of their voice. Take a listen to find out why cars are becoming more like horses, and why no one can get enough of Sir David Frederick Attenborough.

“The next five to 10 years, we are going to see huge improvements, both in [Voice] interaction and in understanding. We are also going to see more customer demand and expectations. So, people will get used to it, they will use it as they now use their phones, and they will expect it to work as robust as your mobile phones work.”

Mihai Antonescu,
Product Manager for the #HeyMercedes MBUX Voice Assistant
in the North American market.

 

Predictions for automotive HMI development and Voice AI

Automotive HMI and Voice AI are still in nascent stages, yet they are making a huge impact on the in-car user experience. Here are a few predictions the experts made about challenges and opportunities for HMI and Voice. 

  • The car will become the second office: If in-car AI and Voice Assistant features deliver on their potential to save passengers time and make life more efficient, cars will become people’s second office, explained Wolfgang Klein. Nils Schanz said he calls his assistant every morning to discuss things like last minute schedule changes. “How great would it be if you would have a real digital assistant help you out with such routines on a daily basis? That is where we are heading,” he explained.
  • We will think about kids: Be careful how you talk to Alexa. Parents in the UK were so concerned with children’s imposing tone and lack of “please and thank-yous” when speaking to Alexa that Amazon rolled out a “polite mode” in the UK market. “In a way, we might contaminate our interaction with humans through how we interact with machines,” Wolfgang Klein noted. Mihai Antonescu shared a personal story that illustrated how AI is influencing children’s development and perception of what it means to be alive.
  • Consumer expectations will drive new features: Engineering is only part of the equation. The auto brands that stand out will be the ones that can keep up with consumer expectations. Nils Schanz noted people aren’t looking for an “out-of-the-box solution.” They want individualized, personal experiences. Mihai Antonescu noted he doesn’t think people will have a problem interfacing with multiple assistants. “Let’s think about, are we just interacting with one person in our lives? Is that such a problem?”
  • The role of the designer will continue to expand: “Maybe we have taken some detours and entered some cul-de-sacs, but I think in the creative process, you sort of have to try too hard to see where the breaking points of the concept are, because you don’t know how far you can go until you’ve been there,” Wolfgang Klein said. He feels the designer role has become more challenging, satisfying, and creative. Increasingly, he and his team are “tasked to create a story around an entire user experience; and by story, I mean overlaying this sort of poetic metaphorical level on top of the functional UX level.”

The discussion makes it clear that all three guests love their job. They also enjoyed the discussion, and we think our listeners will, too. So, please check out this behind-the-scenes look at Mercedes-Benz technology and the future of HMI development and Voice in auto.

It’s time to talk about your future

These were just a few highlights from the discussion. Be sure to listen to the podcast for more insights about automotive HMI development and the future of cars.

Want to go deeper? Our Automotive & Mobility team would love to tell you about their experience working with automotive innovators to redefine what is possible. Recent projects include designing a next-gen HMI and creating an in-car concierge service. Contact us today to learn what Star can do for you.

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