In­fo­tain­ment sys­tems have it all wrong; the sim­plest way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with your car is to ask nicely

Car (South Africa) - - COLUMN -

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

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