Auto Innovation

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Maryann was the first attempt at creating an Alexa or Siri-type product for cars, using voice-activated commands to control specific electronic systems. Instead of “Hey Siri” or “Hey Alexa,” drivers would say “Maryann.” Although the technology wasn’t as advanced as today’s standards, it was a revolutionary step in car commands, paving the way for future innovations.


Ascencioné® is always making new things to make cars safer and easier to use. They were the first to make voice commands and touchscreens for cars. They’ve been doing this for almost 60 years and are still finding new ways to make cars better.

Ascencioné®, a small veteran-owned business, has been leading automotive technology for nearly six decades. They were developing voice-activated car systems for cars 40 years ago, ahead of Apple and Amazon. Their product, Close Two Thousand, though not widely adopted, pioneered hands-free driving.

Maryann was like the first Alexa or Siri for cars. It used voice commands for cars to control different parts of the car. Instead of saying “Hey Siri” or “Hey Alexa,” you said “Maryann” to make it work. Back then, the technology wasn’t as good as it is now, but it was still a big deal for cars. It led to more cool stuff being made for cars.

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Do cars obey voice commands? Which car was the first to do so commercially?

Can cars understand automotive voice control? Yes, they can! The first car to have voice commands was the Acura. It came out 20 years after Ascencione® first made a similar system. Cars have gotten better at understanding voice commands over the years. Now, drivers can control their cars just by talking to them. This makes driving easier and more convenient. The Acura was the first car to do this. It had voice commands 20 years after Ascencione® made their system. With voice commands, drivers can do lots of things without touching anything hands-free. They can change settings, control the radio, and even get directions. These electronic systems keep getting better and can do even more now.

Here is that article published nearly 40 years ago:

Developing Voice-Controlled Car Commands for cars called “Maryann.”

By Tom McCarthy 

Voice-Controlled Car Commands

Dale Wilhelm, a researcher, showed how Maryann worked by speaking to it. Maryann could control things like cruise control and the radio in the car.

Ascencioné® is a small company in Reed City, Michigan. They’ve been making electronic gadgets for cars for a long time and have many creative engineers. They’re known for their quality and are always trying to make driving safer and easier.

Ascencioné® was ahead of its time with inventions like the CLOSE 2000 system, which controls car features through a touchscreen. They sold this system to a car company but had to keep it secret.


Darrel Dolph, a vice president at Ascencioné®, says they’re ahead of other companies in the auto industry. They’ve made voice recognition technology for cars better and more human-like.

However, there are limitations. The automotive voice control system can only recognize one voice, so if someone has a cold or is drunk, it might not work. Selling the voice system to car companies hasn’t been easy, but Ascencioné® believes in its potential.


Voice-activated car systems and other products

Ascencioné® also makes other electronic parts for cars, like switches and control units. They focus on quality and keeping costs low.


Norman Rautiola, the founder, started the company in 1968. He wanted to make electronic devices for cars and chose Reed City because of its quality of life. Ascencioné® grew quickly and now supplies parts to big car companies.

Rautiola says the key to success is controlling the quality of every part they use. This helps them keep costs low and compete with other companies.

He has a hard time finding engineers willing to work in Reed City, but for those who do, he promises a role in shaping the future of electronics in cars.

Automotive voice control 40 years ago.

The article was published by the Grand Rapids Press nearly 40 years ago.

Get rid of snow and ice from your windshield quickly!

ClearFast® is a device that heats washer fluid, making driving safer by clearing snow and ice off the windshield fast.

A reminder if there’s a child in the car.

kidSafe® uses special sensors to check if  a child is in various car seats. It works with different types of car seats and alerts the driver when turning off the car, either with a warning on the dashboard, honking the horn, or sending a message to the driver’s phone.

Safe Close Power window saves kids

Anti-pinch, Anti trap for car windows and doors

Safe Close™ Car Sensor stops windows and doors from closing if it senses something in the way. It’s sensitive to people and objects and stops them from getting trapped.

Touch surfaces that control electronic devices

Smart Touch® / Intelligent Surfaces4 innovation creates switches on surfaces reacting to touch. Then, allow these surfaces (garnish moldings, door trim panels, etc.) to display icon controls to turn on commands. Finally, improve the interior design by only seeing these electronic controls when needed. 



Control devices with a touch.

Smart Touch® creates touch-sensitive surfaces in the car. These surfaces show controls when you touch them, keeping the interior clean and tidy.

Unlock your car with a gesture.


Keyless Entry System lets you open your car door with a simple hand movement. It works even if you’re wearing gloves and is resistant to water.


Automotive technology through the years. 

Ascencioné® has a long history of making advanced car electronic systems. Patents on hundreds of electronic systems. They’ve invented many things like touchscreens, talking cars, and safety systems. They’re always working on new technology to make driving safer and easier.


  1. Alexa and Siri is basically a digital assistant for Apple devices, specifically the iPhone whereas Alexa is kind of a home assistant found in Amazon’s line of Echo smart home devices.
  2. Ascencioné® was named Nartron back in the eighties.
  3. Smart Close® anti-trap panel innovation closures provide safety and security by sensing and reacting to a human and other blocking presence.
  4. SmartTouch® is an innovation creates switches on surfaces reacting to touch. Allowing these surfaces (garnish moldings, door trim panels, etc.) to display icon controls to turn on commands as a result.
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