With a phone mount and a Bluetooth connection, your smartphone can give hands-free navigation, music playback and phone calls in your car. But Holger Weiss, CEO of German Autolabs, believes that the use of smartphones in cars led to the uptick in fatal car crashes logged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the last two years.
Chris, which Weiss refers to as a co-driver, works like a secondary interface for your smartphone designed specifically for driving safety. It includes a screen for simple graphics, but does not allow touch functionality. Instead, you interact with Chris through voice and gestures.
The device comes with its own suction cup windshield mount and plugs into your car's 12-volt power point. Its battery lets it run on its own for a limited time.
Over Bluetooth, Chris pairs with a smartphone running its associated app, available for iOS and Android, making navigation, messaging and music playback available. The app, through Chris, can warn you of traffic on the road ahead, give turn-by-turn directions and read out short emails or text messages.
Instead of simply playing whatever message comes through the phone, however, Weiss says that Chris employs artificial intelligence, making it aware of the current driving context. As such, it will hold off on alerting you to an incoming message until you've completed a freeway merge or other traffic maneuver. Weiss describes it as acting similar to a passenger, who knows to keep quiet when you need to concentrate on driving.
Similar to Google Assistant and Apple Siri, Chris does its natural language voice processing through your phone's data connection. However, unlike a general voice assistant, Chris focuses on driving tasks. The device includes four microphones to more accurately understand voice inputs.
A set of infrared sensors also let you control Chris through gestures, such as a swipe to the left or right, either dismissing or accepting an incoming call.
German Autolabs notes that Chris will become available later this year for a retail price of $299. The Kickstarter program includes pricing ranging from $170 to $215. See the Chris website for the Kickstarter link.
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