Talking Cars Of The 80’s

It’s hard to remember a time when our devices didn’t talk to us. Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant just to name a few. Devices that talk and can understand and respond to us are so common place now we take them for granted. That wasn’t the case 40 years ago. Just imagine how revolutionary and advanced talking cars of the early 80’s must have seemed. If you were alive back then phrases like “Your door is ajar” and “Fuel Level Low” would probably bring back some memories.

The 1981 Datsun Maxima

In 1981 Datsun was the first manufacture to add speech technology to their Maxima model. At the time this was a technology breakthrough. The kind lady in the car presented messages such as “Please tun off the lights” and “Parking brake is on”. In today’s digital age most of us assumed that Nissan (Datsun) simply put a speech chip in the car and done.

This is NOT the case, the technology in the Maxima was mostly analog. The cars voice alert system was a record player. Yes, you read that correctly the car was equipped with a phonograph recording of the alert messages. A small white plastic disk would spin and when an alert was requested by the car a precision tone arm would select the correct track to play.  I wonder if the record would skip over a rough road, or if the message could be played to the point where the needle or record could wear out.

The 1984 Chrysler LeBaron (K-Car)

The voice module in the Maxima proved to be such a popular item other manufactures started to build talking cars. Chrysler introduced their version of the electronic voice module in 1984. The Chrysler version took a completely different approach. Their unit was digital and messages were presented with a male voice. Maybe the designers thought a father figure would be a good thing. “Don’t forget your keys” and “Please close the driver door” were some of the messages that could be heard. As we know automobile manufactures

don’t want to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to car tech and the 1980’s was no exception.  Chrysler used technology from Texas Instruments similar to what was used in the Speak & Spell.  In fact it sounded exactly like the Speak & Spell! The one take away from this talking car was the phase “Your door is ajar”. I still wonder which tech thought that was the proper phase to use. I guess “The door is open” was not fancy enough for LeBaron owners? Well Chrysler  if it wasn’t for you I would think ajar was something pickles came in.





What happened to the talking car?

The talking car turned out to be a fad of the 80’s. Most manufactures only included voice alerts for about 10 years before discontinuing the systems.  Many owners found the systems to be annoying, some found ways to remove and disable the systems, while others asked the dealerships to permanently “fix” them. In 1987  manufactures included switches to disable the systems and by 1989 they were gone for good.

Fast forward 30~40 years and cars are some of the most advanced computers we own. Equipped with text to speech readers and tons of voice prompts it appears our cars are once again talking to us.



Related Reading – Wash & Wax Your Car

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