Conversations with most current automotive voice command systems go something like this:
Car: Please specify the mode of destination entry
C: Please say a city name
Y: San Francisco
C: Please say a street name
Y: Market Street
C: Please say a street number
C: To accept the destination, please press the talk button
And that's when everything is working optimally. This process is so tedious that most people opt for manual entry with the touch screen or whatever other controller the car offers.
In September, BMW will simplify voice command greatly by letting you say the entire address string at once, such as "101 Market Street San Francisco." The system is supposed to be smart enough to parse all the elements of the address you give it, matching the parts to its database of addresses.
This new system is definitely a step in the right direction, as voice command is a lot less distracting than trying to glance at an LCD while blasting down the freeway at 75 mph.
We've seen some pretty impressive voice recognition, notably with the Ford Sync system's ability to parse artist and album names from an MP3 player, so BMW's new voice command may actually deliver what it promises.
And speaking of Sync, BMW will also offer voice command for music searches. Similar to Sync, you will be able to tell the car what artist, album, or genre you want to hear, and the car will play it. For the September launch of the new voice command system, music search will only work for music stored on the car's hard drive, but BMW promises to extend that voice command to attached MP3 players by spring of 2010.
BMW offers this video demonstrating the new system. It's in German, although there are a few subtitles in English explaining how the system works.