When we think about voice assistants in the automotive industry, we typically think of voice technology in our own cars to help us with navigation and other queries. We’ve seen adoption of voice assistants in auto become a fast-growing trend for consumers, and that drivers have been finding value in voice technology for some time now. So much so that 60% of consumers surveyed in a recent voicebot AI report say that when deciding to purchase a vehicle, the availability of voice assistant support is a consideration. 

As voice and assistant technology becomes commonplace inside consumer vehicles, enterprises focused on transportation and logistics are catching on to the opportunity to equip their employees and drivers with a powerful utility. 

From commercial logistics companies to trucking manufacturers to fleet management services, enabling voice-led computing and communication for driver employees is a no-brainer for safety, efficiency and satisfaction. With proper design and implementation, voice assistance can be useful not only while driving, but as an off the road utility. Inspections, reporting, cargo tracking, and more — can be completed faster and made simpler with voice solutions. 

In this piece, we’ll look more deeply at a few areas for voice enhancement that we believe all businesses in this sector need to be considering. 

Taking Voice to the Driver’s Seat

Commercial truck drivers are already adopting voice for answering questions about navigation, weather, traffic, and car controls. For example, Garmin, the original GPS company, now offers its own assistant via a smart display for truck drivers. While drivers have had GPS tools and screen-based consoles for a long time now, pairing these visual interfaces with voice as a controlling technology provides a new and important benefit: allowing drivers to quickly receive or request information to be displayed visually without having to poke around at the system controls. 

Enabling voice-led computing and communication for driver employees is a no-brainer for safety, efficiency and satisfaction.

Popular truck manufacturers are diving into the voice opportunity by leveraging both mainstream and custom assistants for their own vehicles and drivers — Iveco and Volvo trucks are leveraging Alexa to improve driver safety and efficiency. Most recently, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles partnered with UK delivery service Hermes to pilot a voice assistant, called Neo, via a smart display for delivery drivers. The drivers can ask questions about the name and address of the person they are delivering to as well as information on delivery preferences. As delivery orders continue to exceed record highs, employees can tap into the benefits of voice to streamline their tasks and lift their burden.

Although we are seeing smart displays emerging as a popular modality for driver assistance, other solutions are also being trialed. For drivers who want to stay entirely focused on the road without having to revert to screen-based output, headsets and hearables are a unique format.  BlueParrott’s voice-enabled headset, for example, pairs with Siri and Google Assistant and provides drivers with bluetooth connectivity and a more rugged design. There is a lot of space yet to explore how voice can be integrated into drivers’ routines based on their specific needs and preferences.  

Revamping the Fleet Manager Experience

Another component of the transportation industry is the fleet management ecosystem, which orchestrates the flow of information between those on the road and those setting high-level strategies. Fleet management companies are building tailored solutions for truck drivers and back-office employees, ensuring that company performance can always be monitored in real time as drivers traverse the country to make shipments.

With proper design and implementation, voice assistance can be useful not only while driving, but as an off the road utility. Inspections, reporting, cargo tracking, and more — can be completed faster and made simpler with voice solutions. 

Fleet managers’ responsibilities run the gamut — they oversee operations across a region to ensure that the entire fleet is on schedule and meeting goals. Tasks include monitoring costs, dispatching vehicles, tracking routes and locations, ensuring driver safety, and more…which means they are sifting through a vast expanse of information contained in different systems. For these back-office employees, a voice assistant can parse through this data to bring important information to their fingertips to help them make informed, data-driven decisions.

Omnitracs is one company seeing the promise of voice solutions and taking action. It partnered with P&S Transportation to create a private Alexa for Business skill for fleet managers. The skill aggregated important metrics like revenue and delivery, making it easier for them to track operations and performance. 

Conversely, LeasePlanUSA has built a voice assistant geared toward its drivers. The Elle assistant is integrated within the company’s mobile app, allowing drivers to ask questions about the vehicle or fleet so they can easily retrieve operational information on their own, strengthening their independence and driving efficiency. For example, the driver can ask “What is my fuel card PIN?” or “I have a flat tire, where do I go for service?” without needing to ask their team members.

For these back-office employees, a voice assistant can parse through this data to bring important information to their fingertips to help them make informed, data-driven decisions.

In addition, voice can play a role in the maintenance and inspection of commercial trucks, greasing the wheels of the fleet management network. Penske Truck Leasing’s “Pace” assistant, embedded in a headset, walks technicians through a voice-directed maintenance process, enabling them to input data quickly and potentially more accurately. As this information feeds into a centralized database in real time, drivers and fleet managers alike can access these records to make informed decisions.

The Open Road for Voice 

Beyond enterprise logistics teams, it’s only a matter of time before we see voice solutions show up in other areas of mass transportation — from rideshare service drivers to public transportation operators. As a natural interface unlocking hands-free operations, voice presents a clear solution to help busy transportation workers and managers seamlessly communicate and sustain focus on their many tasks. 

If you’re excited about the road ahead for voice and the opportunities discussed here, please reach out at hello@rain.agency. We’d love to discuss your challenges and build a blueprint for voice-enabling your workforce.