Skoda and Seat have announced that they are working on integrating a voice assistant akin to Amazon's Alexa system into its infotainment systems, in its latest push for a greater level of connectivity and user-friendliness.
The technology, which will be part of Skoda’s infotainment package in future models, will use Amazon’s more advanced speech recognition system than the current in-car voice command systems. The existing functionality has been panned by critics as over-simplistic, recognising only set phrases and rigid commands rather than natural speech.
Seat, who today announced the advent of the third-generation Cupra R, confirmed that the technology would feature in some of its models by the end of the year, with the rest of the range following suit over the next 12 months. Brand boss Luca de Meo made the announcement earlier today at a pre-Frankfurt motor show presentation of the Spanish marque's plan for the show.
The system will be implemented first in the Leon and Ateca by the end of this year, then will move to the Arona and Ibiza. It is the first European application of the system in an automotive environment, said de Meo. The system will be optimised for a driving situation, in place of its current, home-biased setup, he continued.
Speaking at the Skoda Digilab in Prague, Czech Republic, head of corporate development and digitalisation Andre Wehner said: “We are working on the Alexa integration, and a smart home integration to give a better service for our customers.”
Connectivity specialist at Skoda, Kai Scheffs, said: “In the first cars which had a voice assistant, they would only understand some sentences. In the future, looking at Alexa and [Apple virtual assistant] Siri, it will definitely be something more individual, so the customer will not really have to think about what they are saying; a more flexible way to understand the customer.”
Also revealed in the plan was the idea for in-home shopping, as well as the advent of over-the-air updates, like those introduced to the car industry by Tesla. This includes the possibility of downloadable features to a car, ending the need to fully and finally spec a car before purchase, and opening up the possibility of the retrofitment of additional features at the customer’s demand.
A timescale of Skoda’s Amazon Alexa integration has not been given, nor has that of the over-the-air updates, although the brand is looking to seize the moment as the connectivity and Internet of Things boom continues to grow.