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Google Assistant gets a new home: Kia cars



The voice-activated home assistant revolution has arrived — and it’s moving onto cars. 

On Monday, the South Korean auto manufacturer Kia announced at the 2018 CES tech conference that the Google Assistant has been introduced into their vehicles’ infotainment systems, specifically for the Niro Plug-In, Soul EV, Optima Plug-In, and K900. 

Kia’s current system, which it calls UVO, allows users to do simple, but somewhat helpful things like checking a vehicle’s charging status remotely from a phone or linking Apple’s hands-free texting to the system. 

Now, by setting up UVO though the Google Assistant app, drivers can “Tell UVO” to do a variety of new things, like commanding the voice-recognition to start the car, lock the car, and change climate control settings (for example, “Tell UVO to lock my Niro.”) Additionally, the usual Google Assistant functions like answering simple questions (weather updates, directions) will now connect play through the cars’ systems.

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In vehicle.

The significant innovation here is not the assistant itself — people commonly ask their personal assistants questions while driving — but that Kia has infused one of the world’s most popular intelligent assistants into vehicles. It’s unlikely, however, that users will benefit much from being able to tell their car to start rather than pressing a button, or being able to, as Kia says in a press release, “Enjoy peace of mind and avoid walking to your Kia car to check if it’s locked.” 

These aren’t important solutions to tangible human problems. But it’s an instance of a burgeoning trend: how intelligent assistants are being employed in more places, in different ways. 



Today, of course, assistant software from Apple, Amazon, and Google might be growing more advanced, but it’s still far from sophisticated. These assistants can access the web to answer simple questions — but don’t yet understand human needs or desires. 

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