The battle for the voice-first experience in automotive is heating up. Recently both Amazon and Google made the news for making breakthroughs with voice-guided navigation and information systems in the automobile, underscoring how dealerships need to stay abreast of rapidly evolving voice-based technology:

  • Amazon launches Echo Auto. For $50, car owners will soon be able to add Alexa to their cars by simply plugging in a small device to their auxiliary jacks, thanks to Amazon’s new Echo Auto Echo Auto is Amazon’s alternative to Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto in-car information systems, both of which feature voice-activated commands for functions such as navigating and listening to music. Echo Auto, when widely available, will make it possible for drivers to use Alexa to navigate, listen to ebooks, stream music, make calls, and manage a host of other functions available from Android Auto and CarPlay. The product is available by invitation only prior to an expected roll-out in October or November.
  • Google expands relationships. Google, whose Android Auto has existed since 2015, continued to expand its relationships with automotive manufacturers. On September 18, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance agreed to use Android Auto to power the media displays used in their vehicles. As a result, drivers of their vehicles will rely on the Google Assistant voice assistant to manage their in-car experience. And on September 21, it was reported that Toyota has agreed to add Android Auto to its vehicles.

These developments highlight three essential truths:

  • The automobile is an important element of a broader voice-based ecosystem that integrates the vehicle with other elements of a person’s life, such as their smart homes. As The Wall Street Journal reported, “The ultimate vision for Google is to create a broad ecosystem for its users, so they will be able to move their digital lives effortlessly between devices, whether it is a car, home or smartphone.” The same holds true for Amazon. Steve Rabuchin, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa Voice Service and Alexa Skills, told CNET, “If voice is going to be everywhere, you want to see voice transition from the home, when you get into your car . . . You’d also want it at work. We’re going off into auto and these other places because we believe voice is a natural interface and it should be ambient.”
  • A dealership’s sales team needs to be ready to answer customers’ questions about voice-based systems, namely Apple’s CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon’s Echo Auto. For instance, customers may already be asking which of your vehicles come equipped with CarPlay and Android Auto and how either can be installed in their current vehicles. Or they may ask whether your service team can help ensure an aftermarket installation of Echo Auto works properly. Answering these questions requires your team to become steeped in technology on an ongoing basis. Are you empowering them to do so?
  • Dealerships also need to adapt your own digital presence to a voice-first world. One way dealerships are making the transition is to optimize website content to be discovered through more complex voice commands. Another approach (among many) is to embed voice-based search into your website, which is a capability that Dealer Inspire supports through our own Website Voice Search product. I recently shared the product with NBC Chicago Tech Trends, as shown here. I mentioned that Dealer Inspire Website Voice Search makes it possible for consumers to take a search that used to take seconds down to milliseconds.

Voice will continue to become an integral part of your customers’ lives. About half of Americans use digital voice assistants, according to a recently conducted Pew Research Center study. And according to Gartner, by 2019, 30 percent of all web browsing will be done without a screen, and one-third of all searches will be voice led this year. Your dealership should be ready to speak the language of a voice-first world.