Volkswagen Picks Cerence to Power Voice AI in New Cars
Volkswagen will integrate Cerence’s automotive voice AI into its newest infotainment system, starting with the Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI. The new AI will run faster and offer better accuracy than the previous model, according to Cerence.
Cerence’s AI will run under Volkswagen’s branding with “Hey Volkswagen” as the wakeword. The Cerence Drive 2.0 system introduced early last year condenses the natural language understanding and text-to-speech tech into a single stack to improve the speed of the voice assistant’s responses. The AI will also learn driver preferences as they issue commands, making it better at anticipating their needs. VW is also embedding Cerence’s speech signal enhancement tools that filter out car noise so the AI can better hear what the driver is saying. The Golf 8 GTI is the first to come with the new infotainment system, but other models will be able to add the update over-the-air this year.
“Our next-gen infotainment system is critical as we redefine innovation and user experience,” Volkswagen head of electronics, Dr. Axel Heinrich, said. “We’re delighted to continue our long-term partnership and collaboration with Cerence and utilize their new Cerence Drive 2.0 platform to bring incredibly fast and accurate conversational AI interaction to our drivers.”
Cerence has been scoring a lot of significant partnerships of late. Most recently, Mercedes-Benz Korea began building the first cars with Cerence plus KT’s GiGA Genie voice assistant. In the year since Cerence Drive 2.0 and its connected Cloud Services came out, the company has had plenty of new features to show off. Since then, Cerence created the Cerence Look tool combining online databases and gaze-tracking cameras to share insight on what a driver is looking at and related Tour Guide feature. A few months ago, the proactive and multimodal Cerence Co-Pilot came out. Co-Pilot analyzes data from car sensors and human input to predict a driver’s desires, ideally skipping the need for a wake word in favor of simply getting a yes or no on suggestions made to the driver.
Volkswagen is part of the Volkswagen Group of car companies like Porsche, Audi, Jetta, and many other European brands and is a subsidiary of holding company Porsche SE. Despite the complex corporate family, the car brands have all experimented with different voice AI partners, including Cerence, Amazon, and Google. VW even teamed with a small startup to test out a new voice assistant in its British delivery vans. What makes the Cerence deal stand out is that Volkswagen built Amazon Alexa right into the Golf 8 model that came out at the end of 2019. All of Alexa’s skills were made available as though the car were an Amazon Echo smart speaker. What the Cerence deal means to the Alexa integration isn’t clear, but we’ve asked Cerence and VW for more information and will update here with what they say.
“Volkswagen has a long legacy of meaningful innovation that puts its drivers at the forefront,” Cerence CEO Stefan Ortmanns said. “The next-generation Volkswagen infotainment system is no exception, and we are proud to partner with VW as they unveil a new era of intuitive voice interaction that will enhance driver safety and productivity while on the road.”