At tech giant Amazon, Arianne Walker is the chief evangelist for Alexa Auto, the auto-geared version of the in-home virtual assistant smart device.
And she knows what she's up against.
Built-in vehicle voice recognition systems are the No. 1 complaint from consumers year after year, she says.
A majority of U.S. adults have used a voice assistant in the car for hands-free tasks, and that number is expected to grow as vehicles get smarter and occupants seek a more dynamic and entertaining experience while staying focused on the road.
In a Zoom keynote presentation during the CAR Management Briefing Seminars Tuesday, Walker cited a study by J.D. Power that surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. consumers and examined voice recognition systems across the auto industry.
"We heard a number of complaints and issues and challenges around the number of features — and the breadth of features — that somebody could use with their voice recognition system in the vehicle," Walker said.
Other complaints included how difficult it was to use the system, the capability of the system to correctly translate the person speaking, and knowing which keywords to use for the system to work properly.
"When you think about that challenge, it's almost like having to memorize a menu and then say things in a certain order without being able to see the menu," Walker said. "That is a tough thing for human beings to do and a real challenge with those traditional voice recognition systems."
Yet a majority of consumers also are interested in having the same in-home voice assistant on their next vehicle, she noted. That's because they already know how to use the features and it would be a more consistent experience.
Walker said cloud-based voice assistant systems, combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help solve a lot of those problems.
At Amazon, the focus has been on four areas for use in vehicles: entertainment; navigation; communications such as making a hands-free call, and the ability to find nearby services; and car control, such as changing the radio station or preconditioning the vehicle by defrosting the windows or setting the cabin temperature before entering.
Automakers such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota and BMW are integrating Amazon's Alexa into their vehicles, she said. The most recent example is the all-electric Nissan Ariya crossover unveiled last month but not yet on sale in the U.S.
"Anything from a smart speaker to a vehicle — any place where you might have more than one voice assistant — and being able to create an experience that is seamless and easy for the customer is really important," Walker said. "These are hard problems to solve. And as an industry, we need to come together and work on this."