When introducing new technologies, it does not always have to be something significant like autonomously driving cars. Sometimes it is a minor improvement that can make an innovation great or has the opportunity to push an existing service even further.
As a leader in free floating car sharing, the employees at car2go always keep their eyes open on new areas of innovation.
With the introduction of more voice assistance technologies and respective devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home moving into the homes of more people, an opportunity to enhance the existing car2go service came up.
Not only was the topic of voice assistance discussed and explored inside the company, but car2go members took the chance to suggest their ideas for a potential Amazon Alexa Skill to car2go.
As exciting as it is to step into new areas of innovation, it becomes much easier when you have an already experienced partner at hand while learning.
Luckily, car2go found a great partner with Onsei, a start-up focused on voice and conversational interface development, based in Berlin. Combining all of this knowledge and experiences as well as the same mind-set about quality, build a solid base for a car2go Skill for Alexa.
It all starts with the voice user interface (VUI)
By taking a look on the whole service of car2go and especially at the app, one will quickly notice that there are many features that would make sense for an Alexa Skill.
Whether it is searching to find the right vehicle, reserving, starting and ending a rental or requesting information about recent trips – there’s a lot to consider including with the Skill while keeping it simple – especially since there is only voice interaction and currently no visuals in addition to it.
That is why the focus of the car2go Skill is to seek, track down and reserve a suitable car while ensuring the most natural feeling throughout the conversation with Alexa. This had to be sketched out as the first step, showing possible interactions and conversation patterns.
Of course, this was not perfect from the start. It had to be thoroughly explored and went through several iterations before being ready for the actual development to begin.
The VUI has surely grown during the project from being one simple page in the beginning…
… to a far more advanced document. Here for example is one single page which shows only a part of vehicle search & reservation.
A frequent and close communication between car2go and Onsei was essential throughout the whole project to allow everyone to always be up to date with information and iterate quickly.
The end result is a new and easy way to interact with the car2go service.
A simple “Alexa, open car2go” will start the Skill after its one-time activation in the Alexa app. Alexa will suggest the closest car nearby and give the option to reserve it or to continue browsing through more cars.
More concrete wishes can be expressed such as “Alexa, ask car2go about the closest vehicle” or “Alexa, tell car2go to reserve a smart”.
Once a reservation is running, one can easily request information about it by stating “Alexa, ask car2go about my reservation”.
This will prompt Alexa to reply with information about the reserved car, mentioning details like the vehicle model, address, fuel level and the remaining reservation time. Change of plans? Alexa also cancel an active reservation as well.
Do you own an Amazon Echo device and are excited to reserve your next car2go via voice?
Give it a try and let us know what you think about the car2go Skill for Amazon Alexa. We would love to have your feedback. You can also write us on email@example.com.