Out-Law News 1 min. read

Car manufacturers announce partnerships with tech companies on use of virtual assistants

A number of major car manufacturers have announced new partnerships with technology companies to work on the integration of the latest virtual assistant software with new connected vehicles.

BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan each confirmed deals with technology companies over the use of virtual assistants at CES 2017, a major consumer electronics and technology trade show held in Las Vegas.

BMW and Nissan plan to integrate Microsoft's virtual assistant 'Cortana' into their next-generation vehicles, while Amazon's 'Alexa' assistant will be integrated into Ford cars in future. Google Assistant will respond to voice commands to connect with and control features of Hyundai vehicles.

Toyota separately announced that it has developed its own "advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system" called 'Yui' to interact with drivers and support autonomous driving.

BMW said "the in-car application of Microsoft’s Cortana" could allow drivers to make bookings on-the-go. Nissan said Cortana could help "make driving more efficient and seamless".

Ford said the Alexa integration will allow motorists to start or stop their engine, lock doors, or retrieve information from their vehicles, by connecting through a range of Amazon devices in their own home. When inside the car, the Alexa technology could be used to support navigation, obtain information, such as news or weather reports, as well as play music and add items to shopping lists, Ford said.

Hyundai said that linking its own 'Blue Link' system with Google Assistant could allow drivers to control in-car temperatures, switch car lights on or off, and find and navigate to places, from outwith the vehicle.

Ben Gardner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who is an expert in connected and autonomous vehicles, said the announcements continue the trend of automotive and technology companies collaborating. He said this is a theme which is likely to continue. 

Gardner also said that it is no surprise to see major announcements relating to the automotive sector beginning to be made at events such as CES, since it "signals the increasing convergence between the automotive and technology sectors". 

"We have already seen automotive companies look to improve their mapping capabilities through the purchase of Nokia’s HERE mapping function and there may be further tie-ups which cover infotainment and telecommunications," Gardner said.

"As is becoming increasingly the case with many consumer products, consumer demand is requiring products to be connected and the car is no different. Automotive companies will need to keep pace with what consumers want going forward which may be more software and connectivity focussed than ever before. As we have seen in the smartphone market, these devices became more dependent on the software they ran than the hardware they incorporated. As such, we may continue to see new entrants to the automotive sector and maybe even the loss of an established brand name altogether, should a legacy automotive company fail to adapt to the evolving landscape within the sector," he said.

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