HAWTHORNE, N.Y. - IBM is trying to sell automakers better speech-recognition technology, in-vehicle cameras and other technology to reduce driver distraction.
"Automakers are worried about the increasing complexity in the cabin and safe operation of the vehicle," said Jim Ruthven, program director for IBM's telematics solutions, at a press event here.
Many of the technologies are bundled in what IBM calls the "artificial passenger." It includes:
n A new generation of voice-recognition software that understands requests from the driver in a conversational manner. Current voice-recognition systems in vehicles require the driver to phrase requests according to a limited menu of commands that the system recognizes.
n Augmenting the voice commands with a camera and software that "read" the driver's lips. Visual speech recognition significantly reduces response errors caused by background noise, such as from an open window.
Also, the camera monitors the driver, looking for clues such as how long the eyelids stay open or closed. If the system determines that the driver is drowsy, it can trigger a message suggesting that the driver pull over and rest or even offer to play a trivia game to help make the driver more alert.
Some elements of the artificial passenger will be introduced by an automaker in about 12 to 18 months, said Barbara Churchill, director of telematics business strategies at IBM.
IBM provides voice recognition technology to Honda for a navigation unit offered on the Accord.
It also works with Johnson Controls Inc. on the U-Connect system from the Chrysler group, which relies on Bluetooth short-range wireless technology to allow the driver to use a hands-free cellular telephone in the vehicle.