"Hey Siri, Start My Car": Voice Activations the Next Big Thing in Auto Features

Illustration by Mark Matcho
"The change will come in how content will be created," says Sam Roberts, assistant director of USC's interactive media and games division.

"The industry will be moving away from touch screens and adding voice controls [for] a lot less driver distractions," says Mercedes-Benz's director of user interaction.

The news from recent auto shows in Los Angeles, Detroit and Vegas would have you believe that the streets of L.A. soon will be crowded with self-driving electric vehicles. In the interim, however, expect infotainment systems that are voice-activated, with Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant battling to colonize your dashboard. Alexa rolls out this year in select BMW, Toyota and Lexus vehicles and will be used to remotely unlock or start your car, among other tricks. With a simple "Hey, Mercedes," the MBUX next-gen infotainment system, which will be featured in the A-Class coming to the U.S. market this year, will answer questions and adjust interior temperature.

"The industry will be moving away from touch screens and adding voice controls [for] a lot less driver distraction," says Georges Massing, director of user interaction at Mercedes-Benz. And the infotainment itself on such in-car systems will connect to drivers and passengers in new ways. "The change will come in how content will be created," says Sam Roberts, assistant director of USC's interactive media and games division. "In-car will be interactive micro-content that fits into short time periods and acts as a media experience for all those passive [listeners]." 

This story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.