Translating the Promise of the Connected Car into Reality

Translating the Promise of the Connected Car into Reality

There is a growing need in modern society to feel connected at all times.

Whether we’re quickly popping out to the local shops or travelling to some far-flung destination on holiday, we still want to know what’s going on in the world. Keeping in touch with friends and family is also extremely important to us.

This desire to be connected is now filtering into tributaries of society that were previously places of solitude.

Cars, for instance, are now bursting with the latest technology that keeps us in the loop as we travel from A to B.

In fact, demand for connected cars is accelerating ahead. A new report by telecommunications company Telefonica reveals that more than 70% of drivers claim to be interested in using, or already using, connected car services.

Around 50%, meanwhile, would now consider connected features a key part of their next car purchase

The translation opportunities for the connected car market are therefore plentiful, yet a number of challenges still exist that both automakers and translators need to navigate if connected cars are to be a success.

What is a connected car?

In a nutshell, a connected car is a car that comes equipped with internet access. There is also usually a wireless local area network (LAN) built in. This means the car can connect with other internet-enabled devices both inside and outside the vehicle.

Special technologies tap into the internet access or wireless local area network (WAN) to notify the driver about things like congestion, speed cameras and safety alerts, not to mention crashes on the road ahead.

Music, smartphone apps, navigation, roadside assistance, voice commands, contextual help, parking apps, engine controls and car diagnosis are other benefits that are part and parcel of a connected car.

What are the translation challenges?

The connected car space is growing rapidly around the world, with traditional car manufacturers and telecommunication companies announcing increasingly advanced initiatives on a seemingly regular basis.

Even giants like Apple and Google are jumping on the bandwagon with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto respectively – both of which aim to provide an effortless connection between driver and car.

But this global expansion brings with it a series of obstacles to overcome. Here we take a close look at a handful of them.

Speech recognition

Drivers can use simple voice commands to initiate phone calls, select radio stations or play music while behind the wheel.

A manual control input – typically a finger control on the steering-wheel – enables the speech recognition system and this is signalled to the driver by an audio prompt. The system has a listening window during which it may accept a speech input for recognition, yet this is where problems can arise.

Different accents across different languages can be difficult to recognise, particularly when it comes to full sentences. Even short phrases and single words can be hard to pick up.

Translation therefore needs to be spot-on to avoid inaccurate conversions that can be both hilarious and infuriating at the same time.

But this is much easier said than done as noise outside the car can also affect speech recognition.


The humble road map has fallen out of use in recent years. Drivers now rely on inbuilt navigation systems to get them to their destination.

Voice commands, however, can be misleading at times, especially when translated into multiple languages.

People can take wrong turns and find themselves in the incorrect lane at junctions as a result.

It is therefore imperative that translation is accurate, otherwise drivers end up getting lost and journey times are extended.

User interfaces

A crystal-clear user interface is needed to help drivers find what they want with minimum fuss.

They don’t want to be endlessly searching while trying to focus on the road ahead – something which can be a dangerous combination – so it is important that translation is kept simple and to the point.

Less is often better when it comes to interfaces. Short phrases and single words are preferred to long sentences that can clog up the screen and distract the driver. Long sentences can also be a translation nightmare.

Local terminology

The fact that different languages have different ways of saying things can cause problems for connected cars.

Bonnet versus hood and boot versus trunk in the United States, for example, while traffic lights are often referred to as robots in South Africa.

Automakers need to be aware of the local terminology if the various features of connected cars are to work effectively.

This is particularly relevant when sending text messages behind the wheel. Drivers dictate what they want to say and who they want to send the message to, the speech recognition system then does the rest for them.

But if the system doesn’t recognise terms specific to the language, such as slang, then problems can ensue.

What does the future hold?

The connected car is expected to achieve mass-market penetration in the next few years.

In fact, Telefonica predicts the overall number of vehicles with built-in connectivity will soar from a mere 10% of the entire market today to as much as 90% by the time the year 2020 eventually rolls around.

Around 60% of drivers want to access connected features and the benefits that come with them through the dashboard – so there is need for accurate translation, especially in terms of speech recognition.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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