Voice control could be future of in-car radio

New research has found that voice-control could be the future of in-car radio.

Digital Radio UK and Radioplayer have partnered to research the possible applications of voice-control in car radios. Nine drivers each participated in a test conducted in a moving car at a disused World War 2 airbase.

Radioplayer is currently developing prototypes for the “perfect radio”, which would be a blend of “broadcast digital radio, FM, internet and voice, working seamlessly together”. An initial report on the joint research session can be read on a special website.

According to the research drivers reported that voice control was safer than using touchscreen controls when at the wheel. The participants on average glanced away from the road 13 times to tune into different stations, specified by the researchers, when using a touchscreen. When using Alexa voice-control the average glances away from the road dropped to two.

The research also found that drivers learned the voice-control method quickly, most felt the method would prompt exploration, but that some stations were harder to find (particularly local ones) through voice control.

Results from the research show that respondants were able to successfully tune to a station more often with voice-control than when using DAB digital radio through the touchscreen. The voice-control operated with a ‘wake-word’ which did not reliably start the Alexa assistant every time, possibly due to road noise. Navigating stations through presets, displayed with logos, was found to be simple.

Market Development Director of Digital Radio UK, Laurence Harrison, said: “We have been working hard with car manufacturers to improve the user experience of digital radio in connected cars. This research suggests that adding voice-control to work with DAB is the logical next step and will inform future discussions with our automotive partners.”

Last week Amazon announced its new Echo Auto product, which will add Amazon Alexa to car stereos with Bluetooth.