Of course this would never happen except in my sometimes fertile imagination (see below), but I notice that Ford is beta testing a live operator assistance feature as part of its cloud-based SYNC Services.
It still provides voice-activated services related to traffic, news, sports, weather, horoscopes, stock quotes, movie listings, and business searches with turn-by-turn directions. Most requests (about 70%) are for business searches and/or directions.
The complimentary operator assistance feature lets users connect safely with a live person who can quickly access information databases to help drivers get where they are going. (The live operator services are provided by MyAssist, a telematics service company based in Stevens Point, WI).
It all sounds very straightforward, but the thought that crossed my mind is what if the voice to person handoff were to happen without the driver being aware – kind of like the navigation lady (or guy) coming to life inside the car (“I thought I told you to turn left two blocks back…”). Expecting voice, getting a real person.
In real life, if/when a user says an address or business that the automated system can’t identify, the user will be prompted with the option to connect to a live operator. If the user confirms he or she would like to speak with an operator for further assistance, the system automatically connects the user to the live operator.
“Our customers asked for additional assistance in situations where their voice request was not understood,” says SYNC Services product manager David Gersabeck. “If you want the most reliable user experience, enabling alternative methods for customers to access information will increase success, which is where Operator Assist factors into the equation.”
“By leveraging what’s available in the cloud, we continue to innovate and improve our customers’ experience without having to touch the vehicle or inconvenience the owner,” adds Doug VanDagens, director of Ford’s Connected Services Solutions Organization.
Live operator assistance in connected cars may not be new, but it’s still impressive, especially considering that Ford is providing the feature at no cost to the customer – at least for now – without requiring any new hardware or software.