2016 Toyota Tacoma: Clunky Voice Control for Those Without Apple Phones
by Carlos Lago, Road Test Editor on March 17, 2016
Toyota is the last major automaker with no announced plans to support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. With this in mind, I was curious to see how the infotainment system in our long-term 2016 Toyota Tacoma handled voice commands.
What happens when you press the button? The first thing I saw on the screen was an option to train the system to recognize my voice. Of course I pressed it.
The screen then displayed a list of sample commands and asked me to read them in a quiet environment. I tried this while idling through a carwash, but the system deemed it too noisy and cancelled the procedure.
I tried it again when I parked at home and documented the process. Below are the prompts the system requested, written as they were displayed.
Reserve a table at 8 PM for 4 people at Horseback Steak House.
Would you like to go to lunch tomorrow for your birthday?
Dial 4 2 5 9 6 8 7 9 0 3.
Show what songs I have by the artist Josh Washington.
Play all my music in the rock genre.
Listen to FM 1 oh 7 point 7.
Add a new house number to an address.
Select this radio station preset.
Choose a city center destination as a new stopover on my route.
Can you go to the previous item?
How'd everything work afterwards? Well, the system had no problems recognizing my voice. Yet I was disappointed that it couldn't discern conversational voice commands, like some of the examples it presented during the voice training process.
When you want to enter an address in navigation, for example, you have to go through a stepped process. When you press the voice command button, you say, "Navigation." Then the system prompts you for the next command. You say "Enter address." Then the system asks you to confirm, and so on.
On my phone, I say "Give me directions to [address]," or some variation. My phone even understands more nuanced commands, like "What time does the nearest [business name] close?"
Toyota has a solution to this: Siri Eyes Free, which comes standard on all Tacoma models. Once you pair your Apple phone, pressing and holding the voice command button allows you to make those conversational style commands successfully.
This is great, provided you have an Apple phone. Those with Android phones are out of luck.
In fairness, the infotainment screen reacts quickly to touch-based inputs and has some natural language voice command recognition, like "What's the weather like today?" Still, I'm sure many buyers are hoping for full Android Auto or broader Apple CarPlay support.
Carlos Lago, Road Test Editor @ 3,624 miles