Under the hood and in the cabin, technology and automobiles are becoming ever more intertwined. Cars are also getting smarter than ever before, able to interact with other vehicles and obstacles on the road, as well as with their drivers and passengers.
Along the same vein, digital assistants (sometimes called smart speakers) like Siri, Alexa and Cortana are everywhere, and drivers are getting used to asking for the closest Italian restaurant or the nearest oil change without ever taking their hands off the wheel. But are there digital assistant uses in the garage, too? Aside from answering a phone call or sending text messages while you work with dirty hands, what about actual project-based assistance?
Could a digital personal assistant help a DIYer keep the garage clean or fix a car? Right now, the answer is maybe in a limited way, but digital assistant uses are expanding by leaps and bounds. Generalist assistants like Siri and Cortana are currently being offered, but specialist assistants could also be developed, as the University of Michigan’s Sirius project results indicate. Sirius is an open-source digital assistant, combining speech recognition, image recognition, text-to-speech and artificial intelligence, which can be programmed for any imaginable task — including shop assistant duties.
Using dirty hands is no way to take down a list of supplies or handle a smartphone, but what can you do when you’re up to your elbows in grime and suddenly realize something is missing?
The digital assistant already knows what brands are on sale and have the best reviews. Imagine asking, “Hey, Cortana, order more degreaser and 10W-30 synthetic oil,” to which Cortana responds, “I found good deals at NAPA on both, and they are in stock at your local store; do you want to hear details?”
Getting Specs on Demand
Imagine working on a 2012 Ford F-150 timing chain and wondering how much to torque the tensioner. Now, imagine speaking to a digital assistant, which already knows you’re working on an EcoBoost 3.5. “Hey, Alexa, how much do I torque the timing chain tensioner mounting bolt?” Alexa readily responds, “Torque it to 72 inch-pounds!” — and you never have to stop what you’re doing.
Most smart speakers and digital assistants can also double as your own garage jukebox. Music services like Pandora and last.fm can keep the music flowing while you wrench. Or just ask your digital DJ to play a specific song. If your digital assistant has a headphone jack, you can kick things up a notch by hooking it up to your shop stereo’s audio input.
As digital assistant uses expand into every part of life, it won’t be much of a surprise when they take on more specialized responsibilities, helping plan and manage things like lawn care, car care, garage care and more.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.