Volvos in South Korea First to Debut SK Telecom Voice Assistant
Volvo Cars Korea has unveiled the XC60, the first car to run SK Telecom’s infotainment system, including a voice assistant and vocal commands. The system runs on Android Automotive OS but relies on SK Telecom’s voice assistant to carry out tasks.
The infotainment and assistant project took two years and about $25.6 million to put together. The system for the XC60 will be installed in a range of other upcoming Volvo vehicles in South Korea. The AI can understand and carry out commands related to environmental and entertainment controls in the car, including requests to run the T-map navigation system from SK Telecom. The car can also connect to smart home networks to run those devices remotely. The connected app, meanwhile, can remotely unlock or lock the car and be used to send accident reports.
“Volvo and SKT both saw cars as the ‘next smart device’. This mutual understanding, I think, was the biggest motivation in launching the system since we agreed on a joint business deal in 2015,” said SK Telecom’s Park Seo-ha said during the presentation of the car, as translated by the Korea Herald.
The battle over car AI assistants has grown more heated over the last few years as the tech becomes a standard expected by new car owners. SK Telecom getting involved adds a new player, even if the company doesn’t integrate into cars outside of South Korea. Google recently made moves for an upgrade when it started ending support for Android Auto on smartphones in favor of Google Assistant Driving Mode, which first rolled out late last year. Like Amazon’s Alexa Auto Mode, Google is using Driving Mode as a way to keep people using its voice assistant when on the road if it’s not built into the vehicle. Google Assistant secured a deal with Ford in February to bring Google Assistant to its upcoming models. The company also added compatibility with Cerence and its enormous fleet of users earlier this year, all just a few months after making an exclusive deal with Groupe PSA. Meanwhile, in China, Baidu is pushing out a fully robotic car, built with Baidu’s Apollo AI driving program. Apollo is embedded in the vehicle and is able to improve how well it performs not only in driving but in communications and interactions with passengers. That kind of car may end up being a much bigger competition than just an AI assistant for adjusting the heat or music playlist.