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Siri-like voice recognition coming to cars

Nuance says that genielike voice commands are coming to vehicles next year.

Siri on the iPhone 4S
Siri on the iPhone 4S Apple

Smartphones raised the bar for hands-free voice activated technology, and consumers are starting to expect the same level of intuitive usability in their cars. But they'll have to wait until next year to find it.

The Detroit Free Press reported that at the Nuance Automotive Forum in Detroit this week, speech-recognition company Nuance said an auto manufacturer will integrate advanced voice command technology into its vehicles next year. Nuance's connected car product manager, Ed Chrumka, said the new systems will enable drivers to make natural-language requests in their vehicles to initiate tasks such as making dinner reservations.

Nuance's speech recognition is already used in several infotainment systems, such as Ford's Sync and GM's IntelliLink. It's also the brains behind Siri's genielike capabilities. But most OEM systems support only 50 or 60 terse voice commands to facilitate hands-free navigation or calling. Ford is the exception, its Sync system recognizing 10,000 voice commands.

However, it's getting to the point that even 10,000 voice commands isn't enough, especially when you want the system to be able to look up directions, suggest restaurants, or shop for you. Existing navigation systems expect you to know and manually enter the address of your destination, which is beginning to feel antiquated. For vehicles that allow voice input for directions, the menus are long, laborious, and often just as distracting to navigate as using a touch screen. Siri-like voice systems in vehicles are desperately needed for automakers to keep up with consumer expectations.

Apple has shown auto manufacturers the right way to do voice commands, and according to Nuance, at least one manufacturer will step up to the plate. However, it's not as simple as copying the implementation. Manufacturers have greater liability concerns and need to grapple with the issue of distracted driving. They also need to be able to provide navigation and directions without relying on mobile networks for data connections, which can be spotty in some areas.

Nuance didn't say which carmaker will be implementing its advanced voice recognition system. However, Mercedes-Benz is expected to reveal an iPhone-centric infotainment system in a vehicle next year.

Source:Detroit Free Press