News Launches Voice-Activated Driving and Walking Directions launched Mobile a while ago. Now it’s also launching “Click to Speak”, a voice-activated directions service.

But let’s start with the mobile part. Ask Mobile is available at Once you’ve reached that address with your Web-enabled phone, you’ll see a “Voice Entry” option on the directions menu.

After what seemed like a very long loading time, a new screen loaded asking me to click to start a call. I did and a few moments later was hooked up with an automated phone system.

(Confidential to Ask: I’m sure the two honks at the beginning of the call are supposed to be cute, but I keep my phone’s volume turned all the way up because I work in a noisy environment. The honks were startling and annoying. I felt like the Aflac duck had crawled in my ear.)

The automated system prompts you by asking for your destination (city/state), and then street or intersection. After that you’re asked for a starting point (city/state), and street or intersection. I thought it was interesting that the system confirms your street addresses, but not the city/states. While the system identified “San Francisco California” with no problem, “Boston Massachusetts” became “Bolton Massachusetts”. There also appears to be no easy way to prompt the system to just start over.

After I had spoken my direction request, a chipper voice told me I’d be getting a text message with directions. Then the call disconnected. Over fifteen minutes later I do not have a text message with the directions.

This is a cool idea, but I’m underwhelmed. The system does not confirm the city/state pairs you specify. It seems to take an oddly long length of time to get street information. And I still haven’t gotten my text message.

I would also like to request a summary from the system. I know that asking it to provide all the directions is a bad idea, but just a summary would be useful. Like, “You’re going from x to y. The distance between the two places is xx miles and takes about xx minutes driving in normal traffic.” That way I’ll have some idea of what I’m getting into before I actually receive the text message. And THEN hang up.

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