MIC CHECK 1-2
Infotainment systems have it all wrong; the simplest way of communicating with your car is to ask nicely
remember the moment as if it happened yesterday. An entire roll of plumber’s tape later and, with six surely super uous screws left in the packet, I turned the ignition key on my Mazda 323 to witness my freshly installed Sony radio burst into life with the warmest hue of gamma green I’d ever seen.
Too impatient to justify a trial run using one of my sister’s mix tapes, I boldly trusted Sony’s engineering department by carefully feeding a freshly unpacked New Kids On The Block cassette into the slot. Lead singer Jordan Knight’s voice lling the 323’s cabin was both cause for relief and a synchronised nod of approval, but the moment of truth was yet to come. As advertised on the box, I simultaneously pressed both the fastforward and rewind buttons to cause the inserted tape to magically switch from side A to B. No more mid-corner ejecting of cassettes and, crucially, more time spent with both hands on the steering wheel.
A number of years later, and the New Kids still planning the ultimate comeback tour, it amazes me that the makers of new vehicles persist in researching and developing the most convenient way for a driver to remove their hand from the steering wheel to operate or seek out one of any number of modern in-car functionalities.
Not only do these technologies inevitably require either a glance for con rmation or, in many cases, a repeat action, but because we’re a right-handdrive market, any gesture controls, writing sensors, haptic mouse pads or
Itouchscreen icons favour a minority of left-handed users. None of these modern solutions offers maximum convenience or, indeed, safety.
While the advent and evolution of the multifunction steering wheel has meant that many an onboard operation is now within a ngertip’s reach, surely the safest and most ef cient way of communicating with your car lies behind a button that already exists on many steering wheels: the one activating voice control.
No, not the current generation of voice control that, if instructed by a South African accent, changes the radio station instead of placing a phone call home, or at the fourth attempt dials your ex-girlfriend Amanda instead of “mama”. What we need is an evolved system that incorporates the kinds of voice- (and accent-) recognition technologies currently being employed by the makers of those very smart smartphones.
Imagine, if you will, being able to con gure your car’s ECU to recognise the nuances of your voice and accent so that it seamlessly obeys your requests. You’d then be able to effortlessly place a call to your wife Suzelle before requesting your favourite Bobby van Jaarsveld track from your car’s infotainment system, all while keeping both hands on the wheel.
While technologies such as Apple Carplay are making huge strides in exactly this direction, what if this voice-activated functionality could also be mated with other soon-to-be onlinelinked systems in your car?
I want to get into my car in the