Cerence Adds Custom Wake Word Choices to Car Voice Assistants

Automotive voice assistant developer Cerence has added driver-customized wake words to its platform. The new feature is debuting in BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, enabling drivers to decide what will alert the AI in the car instead of the default”Hey BMW.” Personalized wake words are just the latest of Cerence’s rapid-fire feature roll-out this year, building on the My Car, My Voice service, which synthesizes a voice for the AI to use out of recordings submitted by the driver.

Personal Awakening

Activating a voice assistant in a car typically means either using the car’s brand, like “Hey BMW” or “Hey Ford,” or the name of the voice assistant platform, such as “Hey Google,” or “Alexa.” Cerence is giving the manufacturers of cars with its platform the chance to stand out from competitors by adding a personalized variation. By letting drivers pick how they start a conversation with the voice AI, they can help drivers to feel more connected to their vehicle, using the voice assistant more frequently and subtly encouraging brand loyalty to the car company in future purchases.

“Our customizable wake-up word technology is one step further in our mission to create an automotive assistant that puts drivers first and accommodates their wants and needs – not the other way around,” Cerence executive vice president and general manager Stefan Ortmanns said in a statement. “Innovations like this will be increasingly important to automakers as they look to create unique experiences that further their relationships with their drivers by delivering deeply personal connections with their cars.”

Cerence’s natural language understanding (NLU) and automatic speech recognition make the customized wake word possible. They’re crucial to its Cerence Studio product, which lets automotive companies design and build every part of their voice assistant without needing to build an AI platform. The BMW voice assistant, for instance, is tuned specifically for BMW in many ways. The wake word option and My Car, My Voice extend that flexibility to the driver. Cerence’s neural net and text-to-speech technology can record a user’s chosen voice to build a synthetic version, and the new feature broadens the personalization to the wake word. Drivers can have a friend or family member’s voice on the road with them, and alert it with the person’s name if they want.

Custom Car Voice Choice

More than 60% of drivers who have used a voice assistant report its presence as a factor in buying a car according to Voicebot’s In-Car Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report 2020, with 13% saying it is a significant consideration. And those percentages may rise as the number of people in the U.S. using voice technology while driving grows. Between the fall of 2018 and the beginning of 2020, drivers with voice assistants rose from about 114 million to almost 130 million. Cerence wants car companies to think of its platform when considering those numbers. And Cerence doesn’t limit its products to car companies with the resources for detailed customization. The Cerence ARK Assistant provides a turnkey alternative, with minimal adjustments necessary to allow car manufacturers to include a voice assistant in their vehicles. Similarly, Cerence’s Cognitive Arbitrator lets automakers offer multiple, simultaneously available voice assistants within a car, while the Cerence UX Services analytics platform lets them better understand how customers are using the voice assistant in the car. Cerence claims that 54% of cars produced globally now include some of the company’s technology, but it can’t just rest on its laurels. Amazon and Google are becoming increasingly competitive, as the Alexa Auto device spreads to new countries at a steady clip and Google signed a deal with Groupe PSA that will integrate its Android Automotive operating system into European car brands like Citroën, Peugeot, and Vauxhall.


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