SoundHound Adds Honda to its Growing Automotive Partner List
SoundHound announced Thursday a strategic partnership with Honda that grew out of work in the Honda Xcelerator according to a media release. The Honda Innovations website has a “New Strategic Partnership” banner announcing the SoundHound agreement, but doesn’t provide additional information. SoundHound’s capabilities fit into two of the Honda Innovations focus areas: connect car and human machine interface (HMI). What is missing from the announcement is anything definitive about when and what models will receive the Hound assistant or other Houndify features. It appears to be a commitment to integrate a Houdify-based voice assistant into future car models.
SoundHound Makes More Inroads into Automotive
The news here is that SoundHound was able to persuade another automaker to adopt its Houndify custom voice assistant platform. SoundHound last month announced deals with both Mercedes and Groupe PSA, maker of the Peugeot, Citröen, DS and Opel auto brands. Those announcements followed earlier news about Houndify adoption by Hyundai and Kia in late 2017.
SoundHound’s voice assistant solution straddles two segments. Legacy voice recognition systems in many car models enable some in-car and infotainment system control but lack the broader capabilities of general purpose voice assistants that have become popular on smart speakers and smartphones. The leader in the legacy in-car voice recognition segment is Nuance which is working to expand capabilities into more general purpose use cases. Nuance remains well positioned as it is already incorporated into so many car models that have long-lead times associated with product integration, works as an embedded system that does not require an internet connection and because its solution model rests data ownership and customization decisions with the automaker.
The rising popularity of general purpose voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant has led automakers to add access to these services in a variety of ways for consumers. However, the requirement of a persistent internet connection poses an operational challenge as connectivity cannot always be assured while driving. Amazon is working on an offline mode that has limited functionality for use in automotive and some in-home use cases where internet connectivity is unavailable. In August, the company introduced the Alexa Auto SDK to facilitate voice assistant integration into cars. The bigger issue appears to data ownership and customer experience. Automakers are reticent to give up control over their customer relationships and in-car experience. This has created an opening for SoundHound. It allows for data and user experience control similar to Nuance and offers general purpose voice assistant features found in Alexa and Google Assistant. So far, the combination seems to be attracting a number of high profile auto brands.