Speech Technology: The Nuance of a Safer, Smarter Connected Car

Love it AND hate it – we are well on our way to becoming a mobile, connected society, with a variety of mobile devices that allow us to text, Tweet or search the Web from just about anywhere.

Love it – because we can easily stay safely connected with our friends, family and co-workers while driving.

Hate it – especially when you see someone looking down and thumbing in a text message when driving the Interstate.

So, it should be no surprise that connectivity is coming soon to a car near you.  In fact, the “connected car” – be it through mobile apps or in-car systems – was among the hottest topics at this year’s CES back in January.

The connected car is certainly not a new phenomenon – it’s held great promise and spurred some amazing innovations over the last few years.  But now we’re on the brink of seeing a truly connected automotive environment hit the road – why? Pervasive, high-speed wireless broadband communications technology like 4G and Long-Term Evolution (LTE), allow consumers to exchange vast amounts of personalized data and information that accompany a connected lifestyle.  We’re experiencing unprecedented demand for bandwidth, particularly in light of the vast mobile web and social networking capabilities and services available at our fingertips – paving a clear path for the 4G/LTE evolution.

This pervasive in-car connectivity brings along very real concerns of manual and visual driver distraction that go far beyond simply texting while driving, especially when you consider the number of brought-in, built-in and now beamed-in systems and devices.  The statistics speak for themselves, outlining the need for a safer, smarter way to engage these connected apps and in-car systems.  However, it requires a gentle balance, as we’ve become accustomed to a certain mobile lifestyle – completely locking out features or banning them is difficult.  The connected consumer needs to be empowered to use technology in a safer, smarter way.  The automobile industry understands this, and car makers are crafting a new brand experience for their vehicles by incorporating in-vehicle connected services and applications.

Enter connected speech technology.

Connected speech technology has evolved dramatically over the last few years.  Today, connected speech utilizes both embedded and cloud-based speech capabilities, and is robust to noise through the application of automotive-specific speech recognition acoustic models and microphone beamforming technology. Furthermore, the range of global languages understood in the vehicle continues to grow.

At Nuance, we believe that connectivity should not come at the expense of safety and convenience.  The correct application of speech technology and effective user interface design enables a simple, easy-to-use driving experience that can reduce driver distraction, which is critical to the ongoing success of connected in-vehicle solutions. Connected speech recognition dramatically improves accuracy and task completion rates and can help address key safety concerns by enabling hands-free, eyes-free access to and control of in-vehicle systems and services; by reducing visual/manual tasks needed to switch back and forth between various in-vehicle interfaces.

When integrated correctly, speech recognition can decrease eye glance frequency and duration on the roadway, and some research has shown that glance patterns when using voice activation are similar to that of normal driving. Measures of driving performance such as lane and speed deviation are better with voice than with manual interfaces. In fact, recent studies indicate that drivers improve their ability to maintain the ideal car position by 19 percent using speech recognition as compared to manual dialing. On average, voice input helped drivers keep their eyes on the road 200 to 300 percent better than manual input.

As 4G/LTE networks emerge, hybrid connected speech capabilities will continue to follow a Moore’s Law behavior. With higher-speed connectivity, additional client processing power can be exploited and more data can be exchanged with cloud-based recognition servers to complete complex transactions and push natural language capabilities into more devices. Additional speech-enabled reference implementations will range beyond only telematics and continue to exploit the capacity and performance of these emerging networks.

The ng Connect Program’s LTE Connected Car is a glimpse into the very near future, showcasing how high-speed networks combined with sophisticated voice technology can transform the in-vehicle experience.  The car features Nuance Voice Control and Vocalizer TTS for Automotive, which enable connected services such as SMS dictation, voice destination entry for navigation systems, voice access to music libraries stored on in-vehicle entertainment systems, and voice search of the Internet, delivering context-oriented results.

This is an incredibly exciting time in automotive history, where mobile innovation is combined with rubber and steel to create not just an exciting driving experience, but a connected lifestyle experience.  And through the creative application of 4G/LTE bandwidth combined with powerful connected speech capabilities, consumers will be able to remain safely connected out on the open road.

Ed Chrumka

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