New Chinese Car Comes with Dancing Holographic Virtual Assistant
A holographic cartoon woman in a giant crystal on the dashboard will offer directions to drivers of the new Bestune E01. Chinese carmaker First Auto Works is rolling out the new electric car and its hologram, an improved version of an earlier version in its T77 model a couple of years ago.
The car offers a lot of advanced technology including digital instruments, a large screen for information and entertainment, and a smaller touchscreen to control the climate and other aspects of the vehicle. It’s the anime character in the crystal that really draws the eye. The visual aspect especially stands out in comparison to the voice-only assistants in cars sold in the U.S. and other countries. Though the scantily-clad cartoon in the video appears to be the default, there are several other options.
First Auto Works previously included a hologram assistant in its T77 model, although it looks like the visuals have been upgraded. The T77 used Xiaomi’s XiaoAI to operate the assistant and presumably is doing so again, although there hasn’t been official confirmation to that effect yet. As seen above, the character dances around, which seems like it would be a real and dangerous distraction to drivers. Some studies have found that using a voice assistant while driving is as distracting as drunk driving. That danger must be multiplied with a visual element in the driver’s view, even before considering what the cartoon looks like.
The Bestune E01 and its friendly hologram are not likely to appear on streets outside of China for a while, but the hologram, and that it was successful enough to upgrade and install in another model, suggests the automotive virtual assistant space will be far from uniform. The general concept, except with an audio-only assistant, is becoming all but mandatory for cars. Groupe PSA is adding Android Automotive to all of its car brands, starting with the 2023 models, for example. Other manufacturers are building voice assistants in-house or creating a branded AI on popular platforms like SoundHound and Cerence. None of them are likely to include visual versions of their assistants, however, at least until autonomous cars become available and the distraction problem lessens.