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In-car AI & handwriting tech increasingly standard

(Image credit: Image Credit: Skitterphoto / Pexels)

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being built into today’s products, learning our preferences and anticipating our needs. One striking development is the increasing use of AI-driven handwriting technology in cars. According to a recent analysis (opens in new tab) from business information provider IHS Markit, unit shipments of AI systems used in infotainment and advanced driver-assistance systems are expected to rise from just seven million in 2015 to 122 million by 2025. Multiple AI systems will be integrated into a single vehicle enabling not only autonomous vehicles over time, but also the infotainment systems will get improved human-machine interfaces using automotive handwriting recognition technology and soon will include multimodal input options for the driver to change the input method as desired without mode switches.

Controlling infotainment systems, though, is just one reason why an increasing number of auto manufacturers—including Audi, Mercedes, Tesla, Lexus, BMW and others—are building AI-driven handwriting technology into cars.

Minimising driver distraction when the car is in motion is one important reason to include handwriting in the vehicle. Handwriting input enables very accurate input recognition with low driver distraction. Safety while driving is a serious concern. Handwriting input is among the lowest distraction input methods that the driver can use in the vehicle, it is easy to use while you keep your eyes on the road. By comparison, the American Automobile Association ranked voice-based command systems, such as the iPhone’s Siri, and found that it significantly distracted car drivers. In a worst-case scenario, drivers using Siri, even at the low speed of 25 mph were distracted for up to 27 seconds, during which they travelled more than three football fields in length.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the many tasks AI-enabled handwriting is enhancing in more than five million cars today:

·         Infotainment system control. Handwriting technology provides a great way to input the search information to browse media libraries and find specific music titles or stations. The AI-components of the software understand what you write and provide easy, accurate input to the infotainment system. User adaptation could also be provided to learn your specific unique words and, over time, anticipate your choices.

·         Select destinations. Looking for directions? Simply trace out the first few letters of where you’re hoping to go, and a car’s GPS system can provide you with the right destination and tell you how far it is, how long it will take to get there under current conditions, and any weather or other road hazards you need to beware of. Safely inputting information when the car is in motion is a big benefit for the driver as opposed to older systems where the input methods required that the vehicle be stopped for safe operation.

·         Make phone calls. If you want to call John, simply trace J- O- until the system recognises the name, then you can confirm, and it will initiate the call. Alternately, you can enter numerical digits. Increasingly, in-car systems not only learn your top contacts, but are able to sync with contact databases you may already have on your phone or home computer.

·         Take notes and do quick research. Most car manufacturers today realise you’ll want to use your smart phone and make use of technology not only when you’re on the highway, but quite often when you’ve reached a destination or have stopped along the way. You might want to record a brainstorm that came about while driving, take notes on a call you just completed, prioritise a list of tasks you want to take care of later in the day, or respond to text or emails. Handwriting tech enables all of this quite easily. Here, multimodal input is especially useful as keyboard input working together with handwriting input is often the easiest and most productive way to optimise the interface to the devices.

·         Exploit office-like productivity. Although many of today’s embedded automotive systems feature mostly simple text features, integrating smartphone or tablet applications into the vehicle is on the horizon. A mobile office that enables such, must provide productivity when the vehicle is stopped. This potentially enables you to do everything from compose papers, edit presentations, browse the web, and share notes easily with others via email and text.

·         Explore unique, advanced options. Today’s best handwriting recognition software offers capabilities you generally can’t find even in today’s most advanced smartphones. The coupling between the phone and the vehicle will blur the line between vehicle input and more productivity-oriented applications when the car is not in motion and used as a mobile office. As advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving become common, these productivity applications will become important to the occupant even when in the vehicle is in motion.

This minute-long video shows some of the ways AI-driven handwriting technology is used in more than one million cars today

This minute-long video shows some of the ways AI-driven handwriting technology is used in more than one million cars today

Wide-ranging control options

In-car devices that accommodate handwriting input touch panels are generally located on the console, between the two front seats, and take up remarkably little space while providing the driver with a relaxed and comfortable writing position. The driver need not even look at the input pad to effectively use the system keeping their eyes on the road. For instance: You only need a single small space to trace on with your finger, since handwriting technology today can recognise characters (or even whole cursive words) directly superimposed on top of each other. Superimposed writing with characters or cursive on top of one another are accurately recognised into words and sentences if desired. Moreover, the software is also built so that it won’t be thrown off if you write at a tilt: Slant up to an angle of over 35 degrees from the horizontal, and the software won’t be thrown off—it still grasps what you’re writing with ease. has posted a quick review of Audi's 2017 Q7 SUV all-in-touch trackpad. It has handwriting recognition, multitouch gesture support and a pinch-to-zoom option for maps. has posted a quick review of Audi's 2017 Q7 SUV all-in-touch trackpad. It has handwriting recognition, multitouch gesture support and a pinch-to-zoom option for maps.

Today’s handwriting technology isn’t limited to English or European languages, either: Today’s industry standard handwriting tech actually recognises input from languages used by more than 90 per cent of the world today – often even providing transliteration.

An unimagined future

According to Frost & Sullivan, the market for handwriting technology in cars will grow at a rate of more than 30 per cent (opens in new tab) each year through 2020. By 2018, analysts say, you should expect to find handwriting technology interfaces included in a broader range of vehicles and price points, including many mid-range and many entry models.

But, handwriting technology is only one of the powerful technologies reshaping the in-car experience for future drivers. As the IHS Markit research previously mentions, advanced driver-assistance systems will build in software that helps each car communicate with others about speed, proximity and road conditions, as well as with the actual infrastructure built into highways of the future, which will send out alerts about weather or delays and backups, and facilitate extra lane openings. Multimodal input will enhance user interaction with the vehicle and become even more important as vehicles become more automated and autonomous.

By 2020, Gartner predicts (opens in new tab)that there will be 250 million cars connected to each other and to the infrastructure around them via wireless systems – up from the 150 million car prediction just a year ago.

It’s a whole new world out there. New multimodal input methods will flourish as more driver interaction is routinely required in the vehicle. The future holds the potential for some to simply use a car only on-demand, perhaps leaving the driving to the vehicle.

Gary Baum, Vice President of Marketing, MyScript (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Skitterphoto / Pexels

Gary Baum is the Vice President of Marketing at MyScript, the source of the most advanced technology for handwriting recognition and digital ink management.