Technology is constantly improving and it’s not just smaller and hand held items like phones and laptops that are getting better, it’s the technology within the home and also in cars too! When Volkswagen revealed that it was combining the Alexa Voice Service with Car-Net functions back in January, there was plenty of excitement around how the development will help move cars even further into the 21st century. I’m sure we all expected cars to be self-driving or even flying by now and although this is not the case, there are some amazing things that this new technology can do, including helping drivers to become safer behind the wheel. There has been a few significant changes in the UK road laws and this technology has proved to be so helpful.
Here, VW dealership Vindis explores why this is the case:
What is Volkswagen Car-Net?
To start with, we need to know what Volkswagen Car-Net actually is. I know absolutely nothing about cars, so lets start from the basics here. In essence, Car-Net involves everything that is related to the in-car internet connectivity that is found on Volkswagen vehicles. So, whether it is hi-tech maps to help you get from A to B, streamed music to make every journey a lot more entertaining, or even innovative means of monitoring what’s going on between back seat passengers – this is all covered within Car-Net.
The main parts of Volkswagen Car-Net are as follows:
Guide & Inform
Just because you are behind the wheel, it doesn’t mean that you need to be disconnected from everything going on away from your car, however using a mobile phone or a similar device whilst driving is not only dangerous but also illegal, so you’ll want something else that can inform you of what is going on.
- News — You select the news feeds that interest you and then the latest stories are imported from the customer portal to your Volkswagen as the headlines break.
- Weather — You can receive the latest weather conditions for both your current location and the destination you have in mind (with expected time of arrival also considered). No more needing to listen to what the weather is like on the other side of the country and this can help you work out just how much longer your journey is going to take in awful weather conditions!
- Online traffic information — Just like with the weather, you can keep informed about the current traffic situation, both on the road you’re on and others you’re likely to venture onto and again, this will help you to work out how long your journey is going to be and if there will be any delays.
- Fuel information — It can be worrying seeing the low fuel light flick on when you’re not familiar with an area. Fortunately, the ‘Fuel Info’ search function will let you know of all nearby filling stations, when they are open and how much the fuel prices are which saves you panicking when you notice that you’re running out and you’re in an unfamiliar area! How many times have you ended up going to the first petrol station you’ve seen and had to pay over the odds for petrol only to discover another one a couple of miles away at a much better rate?
- Parking information — Wave goodbye to driving around a city looking for what feels like the last available parking spot by using the ‘Parking Info’ feature. It will inform you of all free parking spaces in your vicinity, as well as opening times and prices.
Security & Service
- Emergency Call Service — You don’t want to think about a serious incident but with Emergency Call Service, at least rest assured that your vehicle will automatically call for help in a situation where the driver may be unable to. This would have been really handy when I was in a car accident as the coffee I was holding at the time went everywhere and ended up in the microphone of my phone. When I called 999 they couldn’t hear me at all!
- Breakdown Call — One press of a button and Volkswagen will make a call for breakdown assistance to the Volkswagen Roadside Assistance service. No need to know where you are, have a phone reception or even memorise a phone number!
- Vehicle Health Report — This presents you with any existing warning messages or service events before you begin driving, avoiding unwanted surprises during a journey.
Photo credit: Kellie
How does Alexa Voice Service combine with Car-Net?
To understand how the Alexa Voice Service and Car-Net combination will benefit you, the driver, here’s a scenario that many of you would have likely encountered in the past — especially business people.
Part way through a journey alone, you suddenly remember something that you need to do once you reach your destination. Obviously, writing when driving is dangerous, and there is nowhere for you to stop to jot down a reminder – and no-one there to write down your task. Using the notes feature on your phone is definitely out of the question, so you decide that the best course of action is to keep the errand in your mind until you stop driving. However, a few distractions are encountered throughout the remainder of your drive and by the time you’ve parked up, you’ve completely forgotten what the task was. I’m sure that’s happened to you many times!
In future, this very common annoyance can be avoided, as the driver will be able to schedule appointments and plan errands by informing the system simply through the power of their voice – no more forgetting things and you can be safe about it.
Car-Net mixed with Alexa Voice Service functions will even be able to be controlled away from your vehicle. For example, you can program a voice command such as “Alexa, ask Volkswagen the way to the drive through coffee shop” when you’re at home and then hear the message come through when you’re next behind the wheel.
Where does the safer driver aspect come into play?
Advancements in in-car connectivity couldn’t have come at a better time, due to the penalties for using handheld mobile phones while driving across the UK recently becoming a lot harsher.
In March 1st 2017, the Government doubled the penalty for getting caught to six points on your driving licence and a £200 fine. You are at risk of getting caught any time you pick up a mobile phone and operate it while driving (that includes waiting in traffic or at traffic lights). By using this new technology you’re not only being safer and legal but you’re also avoiding that horrible fine and points on your license.
In-car connectivity should help to keep your hands off your phone, especially as recent research has suggested that many drivers are still not abiding to the law, despite the increased penalties and this is probably because they don’t have the sort of technology in their car that will allow them to be hands free.
For instance, a survey of over 1,000 motorists carried out by price comparison site MyCarNeedsA.com revealed that 20 per cent admitted to making calls when driving, six per cent checked social media and two per cent texted – this is so dangerous and puts not only your own lives but others’ in danger.
The stats from this research, reported on by FleetNews, also included the fact that 66 per cent of drivers said they have texted, 37 per cent have checked social media and 18 per cent have made calls when they were stuck in traffic.
Figures obtained by the Press Association and reported on by The Independent further highlight the problem. The stats reveal that close to 6,000 drivers have been caught illegally using their mobile phones in the four weeks since March 1st — one motorist every seven minutes.
By continuing to advance in-car connectivity — especially with hands-free technology like Alexa Voice Service mixed with Volkswagen Car-Net — it stands to reason that hands-free driving should become even more easier to achieve.