Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Test New Voice Assistant for Hermes Deliveries in UK
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and delivery service Hermes are trialing a custom voice assistant to help drivers as they make their rounds bringing packages to people in London. The Volkswagen vans and trucks used by Hermes will provide information to drivers via Neo, a voice assistant built by German voice tech startup Neohelden.
The Neo voice assistant has been customized for use by delivery drivers during the pilot project. Delivery drivers with Neo in the vehicle will be able to ask detailed questions about each delivery they are scheduled to make that day, with answers read out and relevant visuals displayed on a screen in the vehicle. They can find out basics like the name and address of the person they are making a delivery to, as well as information on the package and notes from the recipient on where to leave the package or who to leave it with if the recipient isn’t home.
Volkswagen and Hermes chose to work with Neohelden after the startup demonstrated its tech in the Future Logistics Challenge the two companies ran in Europe. The pilot will take place all month in London with a variety of drivers getting a chance to take the voice assistant for a spin. Neo connects various databases supplied by Volkswagen and Hermes to source answers to questions posed by the driver. The idea is for the driver to save time by adjusting their schedule and quickly get reminders about their deliveries of the day even when the company is swamped at headquarters and in the field. Even new drivers or those in unfamiliar areas will be able to get the information they need without a lot of prep work by the home office.
“Our network of over 27,000 couriers are working hard to deliver ever- increasing volumes driven by the natural growth of e-commerce,” Hermes UK head of product, innovation, and onboarding Lynsey Aston said in a statement. ” On top of that, the pandemic has seen our volumes soar to more than 630 million parcels over the last year and we’ve grown our teams and network of self-employed couriers, which has meant a lot of new starters to onboard, fast. Anything that helps us to do this quicker and supports our couriers in delivering more safely and efficiently is really important, so we’re excited to be part of this trial in partnership with our Innovation Lab team.”
Voice assistants are rapidly becoming a standard feature in private cars, with Amazon, Google, Cerence, SoundHound, and other platform developers battling for market share. Volkswagen even chose to start building Alexa right into its new Golf model of cars. The voice assistant for commercial vehicle space is less well defined as of yet, but the Volkswagen pilot is indicative of how that is starting to change. Amazon has already begun integrating Alexa into Volvo’s newest line of commercial trucks in Europe, a first for the voice assistant, for instance. Alexa offers the same communication, entertainment, and navigation features it does in regular cars but also augments the safety and productivity features Volvo rolls out for its trucks. There’s also the Garmin dēzl smart displays for trucks with the OK, Garmin voice assistant. Those are aimed more at long-haul trucks and include popular truck routes, a load-to-dock guidance system, and the Truck and Trailer Services directory.
“The challenge lies in developing helpful apps like this for the existing everyday delivery routine and for existing electronics infrastructure in the vehicle and on hand-held devices,” Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles project leader Artur Hasselbach explained.