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How to use voice control in the car

Tips for using Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant on the road

Thanks to virtual assistant devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, voice control has become an essential tool in the modern smart home. Voice control devices offer an incredible range of hands-free help, from reciting recipes in the kitchen to DJing in the den. But how can voice control help in the car, where hands-free use is so essential? Let's find out.

Smart phone screens

Go hands-free in the car

Use a Bluetooth connection 

With a Bluetooth® connection to your car stereo, you'll have quick access to the suite of voice commands available on your smartphone. If you use an iPhone® or Android™ device, you know some of what Siri®Google Assistant, and Alexa can do for you. If your vehicle's factory system isn't equipped with Bluetooth, there are several types of Bluetooth solutions that extend voice control from your phone to your car's audio system.

Android screen

Use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

Voice assistance gets even more helpful when you have a car stereo with built-in Apple CarPlay® or Android Auto™. Visual accompaniment to your commands helps you get more satisfying results, and with more of your favorite apps available on your car stereo's display, voice control is the ideal tool to navigate them. Get an idea of what that's like in my 3-day Siri challenge.

External mic

How voice control works in the car

An external microphone captures your voice, while audio responses play through your car speakers. Prompting your vehicle's voice control is usually done with the single push of a button, but depending on compatibility, just speaking "Hey Siri",  "Ok Google", or "Alexa" can work if activated in your phone's settings.

Man in car

What can voice control do in the car?

It's no secret that hands-free calling is a must when you're driving (in fact, it's a requirement in many states). But what about if you need directions to a decent restaurant on a road trip? Or if you need to switch up the music? Or send a text to tell your friend you're running late? You can do that and a whole lot more than you may realize, all without taking your eyes off the road.

Here's just the tip of the iceberg:

Main screen with voice prompt

Voice control essentials

  • Check your voicemail: If you couldn't catch a call, find out what you missed by saying, "Play last voicemail."
  • Text a contact: If you compose a text for someone in your contact list, Siri or Google Assistant will double-check that the message is correct before sending it.
  • Listen to your texts: "Read last text message" will prompt Siri or Google Assistant to walk you through your latest messages (and give you the opportunity to reply). The more specific your command, the better the results.
  • Set a reminder, an alarm, or dictate a brilliant thought for later: A lot of important thoughts come to you while you're driving. Use voice control to make sure you don't forget them.
  • Check business hours: Save yourself from driving someplace only to be greeted with a "Closed" sign by asking for an establishment's business hours on the way there.
  • Check the weather: Driving to a hiking trail? Siri or Google Assistant can tell you whether to bring that extra layer or leave it in the car.
  • Call an emergency number: Whether it's 911 or your local fire department, voice control helps you stay in the moment if you're witness to an accident or emergency.
It's Tuesday

Make music easier

  • Ask for downloaded songs by name: If you have music files saved to your phone, you can simply request them. Feel free to think ahead too by requesting, "After this, play..."
  • Even streaming music can get a little easier: If you have a favorite app for streaming music open, try commands like "Next track," "Last track," "Resume," and "Pause." Mastering some simple voice commands can make playing music easier in the car. In some cases, you can ask for a song or artist by name.
  • Adjust the volume: While you won't be able to make adjustments to your vehicle's stereo, you can adjust the volume of the audio source, your phone.

Waze screen

Let your phone guide you

  • Ask for directions: Getting where you need to go can be as simple as "How do I get to...?"
  • Double-check traffic: After a long day at work, it never hurts to check on traffic to make sure you get home as soon as possible. Start a dialogue with Siri or Google Assistant about the best possible route by asking "What's the traffic like on my way home?"
  • Status check: Towards the end of long road trip, it can be tempting to fumble for your phone to check on your ETA. Instead, consider asking, "How long until I reach my destination?" for the answer.

Fun stuff

  • Get local movie times: Win parent-of-the-week by asking "What movies are playing near me?" and take the kids to an impromptu afternoon flick.
  • Settle a bet: "How many stars in the sky?" Let Siri or Google Assistant resolve whatever quandaries come up on a long car ride.
  • Can't decide where to eat? Ask Siri or Google Assistant to "Flip a coin," and you'll get an answer (like it or not).
  • Open a 3rd Party app: Voice control is integrated into a number of 3rd Party apps. Grant access to that essential app in your device's settings and take advantage of cool features.

Settings screen

Can you turn off voice control?

Absolutely. You can turn voice assistance off in your device's settings. You can also dial in just how you want to use voice control in this menu as well. If you have more questions about how to use your voice assistant, you can always, well... ask your voice assistant.

Dash with Siri hands-free

Get comfortable with voice control and improve your drive

As with anything, the more you use voice control, the more comfortable you'll be with the feature, and the more you'll get out of it. So, try using it once a day. Bit by bit, you'll become a Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant pro, and you'll discover how it can benefit you best in the car. 

When you're ready to enhance your vehicle with a voice control-equipped car stereo, give us a call. One of our advisors will help you find the right solution for your needs.

Oh, and if you use voice control often, share your tips in the comments of this article!

Last updated 9/24/2020
  • Mark R from Portage

    Posted on 8/17/2017

    I installed the Sony AX100 in my older tundra several months ago. The unit is a large touchscreen that is bright enough in the day and auto dims when you turn your lights on. The price for the unit is steep and most of the features worked better after Sony updates the firmware but for the most part between the phone and the apps it can be very buggy. If you're tech savvy it can be manageable but for those who aren't as up on things it can be frustrating