In-car connectivity just got a whole lot better – if that’s possible; well it is! Volkswagen revealed that it was combining the Alexa Voice Service with Car-Net functions back in January, and there was plenty of excitement around how the development will help move cars even further into the 21st century.
Another bonus is that this new technology can also help drivers become safer behind the wheel — a fact that has been underlined even more recently following a few significant changes in the UK road laws.
Here, VW dealership Vindis explores why this is the case:
What is Volkswagen Car-Net?
First things first, let’s clarify what Volkswagen Car-Net is.
To put it simply, 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
Whilst behind the wheel, you need to stay safe with your eyes on the road – however, that doesn’t mean that you need to be disconnected from everything going on away from your car.
The Car-Net system has the Guide & Inform services that help to keep you better informed with the stuff that matters to you whenever you’re driving. Compatible with the German manufacturer’s Discover Navigation infotainment system, features include…
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
The systems Security and Service features help put your mind at ease, as it includes all of the following…
- 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.
- 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.
How does Alexa Voice Service combine with Car-Net?
Imagine this: 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. 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.
Thanks to new in-car connectivity from VW, this annoyance can now be avoided in the future, as the driver will be able to schedule appointments and plan errands by informing the system simply through the power of their voice.
Combining the capabilities of Car-Net and the Alexa Voice Services 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 nearest flower shop” when you’re at home and then hear the message come through when you’re next behind the wheel. It’s clear to see that the connected home is branching out in a very effective manner.
Where does the safer driver aspect come into play?
Penalties for drivers using their mobile devices at the wheel have just became a lot harsher – perfect timing for new advancements in in-car connectivity. On 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).
In theory, 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. 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.
FleetNews reported 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.
The RAC Foundation’s director Steve Gooding commented: “Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen.”
The continuous advancements in in-car connectivity, especially hands-free technology, begins to park the way for hands-free driving in the future.