Car speaks language of its own

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, April 15, 2012

I have to admit I’ve been a little bit intrigued by the new talking phones by iPhone with the feature, “just ask Siri.”

     My fascination with talking gadgets probably came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Capt. James T. Kirk would ask the computer aboard the Starship Enterprise a question and it would answer back.

     For those of you who aren’t tech savvy, Siri is the voice attached to the latest version of the iPhone. You can speak directly into the phone and ask Siri anything, and she’ll have an answer, even if it’s only to say, “I don’t know.”

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     You can ask Siri for directions and she’ll get them for you. You can ask Siri to do the texting for you while you’re driving and she’ll send it to your contact. She’ll even set up reminders of appointments for you. All you have to do is ask and Siri sets them up.

     I haven’t purchased one of these smart phones yet. My cell phone plan won’t let me upgrade to a new iPhone for another year, so I’ll have to wait until the time is right or pay full price for a phone. Who wants to pay full price?

     In the meantime, I’ll have to keep trying to talk to my car. Yes, it talks, too.

     When I purchased my new car more than a year ago, it was the only one on the lot in the make and model I wanted that was also the right color.

     I tend to like white vehicles, and I wanted a tan interior with dark carpet. My sales guy had just the right one for me.

     It had a few more “bells and whistles” than I usually buy, but it was the right color and interior. And I thought I could actually get used to some of the neat extras. After all, I do like gadgets.

     We did a test drive and when the salesman demonstrated the talking features of the vehicle, it worked perfectly for him. There are key words that the car picks up when you give it commands.

     It will switch radio stations if you ask, nicely. It will adjust the temperature in the car to whatever you ask for. It will also find certain amenities on the navigation map for you. It can also interface with the Bluetooth in my phone and make phone calls by voice command.

     After my first lesson, I thanked the car salesman, and my husband and I were on our merry way with our new talking car.

     The first week I had the car, I was a little hesitant about using the voice commands.

     The second week, I thought I’d warm up and use some of the familiar ones, like the phone commands.

     By the third week, I was constantly talking to it, trying to learn the key words for each component of the vehicle. One of the great things about the car is that it repeats the command back to you so you know it heard you correctly.

     I’d say, “Radio on.”

     Car, “Radio on.”

     Me, “Radio off.”

     Car, “Radio off.”

     Me, “Temperature 70 degrees.”

     Car, “Temperature 70 degrees.”

     Me, “Find restaurants.”

     Car, “Rear defrost on.”

     Me, “No, find restaurants.”

     Car, “Rear defrost off.”

     Apparently, my car has a glitch, I thought.

     So I say again, “Find restaurants.”

     Car, “Fan on medium.”

     I started thinking, maybe my car just doesn’t want to find restaurants.

     So I say, “Find ATMs.”

     Car, “XM Radio on.”

     So I gave up.

     I asked my husband what could be wrong with it? He said my car didn’t like me and laughed and teased me for having a car that talks.

     After a year of ownership, I’ve come to the conclusion that my car is a Yankee and doesn’t speak Southern English.

     If I enunciate my words just right, my car understands. But let me bark out a command in my usual tone of voice and lord knows what I’ll get.

     So if you see me riding down the road talking to no one who is there, it probably means I’m trying to get my car to do something spectacular – like turn on the air conditioning.

     Thank goodness it still has knobs.

     And how was your week?

     Lifestyles Editor Tammie Brewer can be reached at The DAILY LEADER at (601) 833-6961 ext. 134, by e-mail at or you can write to her at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602.