During a recent unexpected trip to see my family, I found myself in the middle of the North Dakota winter. Extreme cold, snow and blowing winds welcomed me back to my home state. I was fortunate to be able to borrow a car from my father-in-law’s business instead of paying for a rental car. The car is the same make and model that I drive back at home, just slightly different model year, so mostly familiar. At least I thought…
After driving 180 miles on icy, snow-covered roads, I arrived at my destination, an unfamiliar town. I pulled over to the side of the road to do a quick check for a local hotel on my phone. Once in my room, I found myself thankful to be done with that day’s white-knuckle drive. Fast forward to the next cold, dark morning. I ventured out to start the car. I needed to give the car time to defrost the windshield and warm up. It was -40 degrees’ wind chill(!) that morning. The car door barely wanted to open and the seat was like a rock. I started the car, then opened the car door and held my breath as I ran back into the hotel to grab my cup o’ joe. Wow, that stung the skin! After enough time had passed to get the windshield defrosted, I once again ‘ran’ to the car, if that’s what you can call a person my age running on ice into strong winds. I made it.
What the what?
But wait…. the snow and ice had not changed on the windows, I couldn’t see a thing and the seats were still ice cold and hard as a rock! The thermostat and blower were set to ‘high’. What was going on? I looked at the dash and the power button was glowing. Had the thermostat broken and the air wasn’t heating?
I decided to just ‘restart’ the car, a technique I use a lot when my computer isn’t working correctly. Ok, now to restart. I put my foot on the brake, hit the power button and an error message flashed up on the screen. Now what? By this time, I was feeling anxious to get to my appointment and had no idea what was happening to the car and literally felt the skin on my hands stinging from the cold. As I looked to my side, I saw a pick-up truck with jumper cables providing a much-needed boost to another truck. This didn’t appear to be the issue here, I saw the lights on the dash. But was exactly was happening?
I found myself thinking “wow, it would be amazing to have an auto assistant to help diagnose what is going on with my car right now…” The good news is that while that assistant wasn’t living in my loaner, it is an experience that is hitting the road elsewhere thanks to the innovative minds here at Nuance. Baked into the car speaker system, the automotive assistant can tell me exactly why I had the annoying orange error and why the car was blowing air but not heating it! Think about the many times you’ve had a question about something in your car and had to turn to either the printed manual or a search engine to find the answer. Imagine you want to turn on your fog lights, but don’t know where the switch is. Now, you can just say, “How do I turn on the fog lights?” with an assistant answering, “the switch is to your right, behind the steering wheel”.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Our team at Nuance reached out to consumers to better understand some of the biggest challenges and frustrations they have with their cars, and the ways they would like to receive help for those problems. We know that drivers rarely, if ever, use physical car manuals. Our data shows that less than 7% report using it more than once a year. We also know that today more than 75% of drivers use a search engine as one of their top three methods of getting answers to car problems. However, we also know that once we talk about the ability to get these answers from a solution like the Smart Car Manual, 80% of drivers say they want this feature in their car (and 56% would pay more for it). Through our research, we’re ensuring that our Dragon Drive Smart Car Manual can answer frequently asked questions.
However, it can do even more than that: it can provide contextual questions such as “what’s my tire pressure?” When we propose the idea of a smart car manual to drivers, nearly two thirds of drivers expect it will do more than the printed car manual. Beyond that, nearly half of the drivers proactively suggest asking about some of these contextual questions unprompted. We can go beyond what car manuals do today, and continue to meet the (growing) expectations of drivers. We can provide sensor-related feedback, such as “no, not that button” and alerts when there are problems. The manual can tell me why there is an orange triangle, and how to get it to go away, before I leave the car hoping it will warm up. It can even have interactive coaching on unused features such as “I recognize you have not used the seat heater, would you want to learn how to do that?” Uhm… yes please!!!! “The switch is to the right of the steering wheel, it is used to control the temperature.” “This one?” “Exactly.”
Indeed, pretty handy features, and ones that I wish I had back in January during my time in North Dakota.