Automakers to get rude wake-up call on voice recognition

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Check your pride at the door Wednesday afternoon when J.D. Power plans to lay into the auto industry for one of the most poorly executed technologies it peddles to consumers -- voice recognition.

In brief, vehicle voice recognition technology is awful. It was lousy when it first emerged in the early 1990s. And after 15 years of inclusion in vehicles across the price spectrum, it remains as lousy as ever.

Somehow, this has largely escaped the notice of industry quality mavens. But no more.

“We plan to dig a lot deeper into this problem,” warns Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface.

It’s not pretty.

In your clearest voice and with your simplest and most precise words, tell your car that you’d like for it to turn on the air conditioner. There is a good chance that a computer voice will respond that it is searching for nearby pizza restaurants.

And nobody does it well -- not Mercedes, not Toyota, not nobody.

“We’re seeing that customers are being alienated by these systems,” Kolodge said, ahead of her Wednesday presentation. “Customers are telling us that it is causing them to regret buying the vehicle they just bought.”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at