How voice recognition works in today’s connected cars

November 04, 2015 // By Connor Smith, Nuance
Let us have a look at how audio can affect the user experience in a voice-enabled car. In an automotive environment you are faced with a few challenges like voice barge-in and in-car-communication. Input audio in a voice-enabled automobile is a behind-the-scenes phenomenon. The end user doesn’t usually notice the audio chain unless things go awry. It is similar to working as a stagehand at the theatre: a difficult and even thankless job, full of unexpected obstacles, that isn’t noticed until the curtain drops in the middle of the lead actor’s big solo.

Audio has a long, sometimes difficult route in the connected car — traveling from your mouth all the way to the speech recognizer “hearing” what you said. In the short version of this journey, there are two halves:

Part 1: Inside the car cabin

The first half of the journey takes you through the interior of the vehicle – from your mouth to the car’s microphone. Unfortunately, cars can be very noisy environments. If you could hear the bumping, grunting, and shuffling of the stagehands, would you really enjoy the play? Think of everything that you can hear in the car: engine revs, potholes, tractor trailers passing on the right, kids playing in the backseat, windshield wipers, climate control noise… and then finally your voice.

Take potholes: A common condition on many country roads that I frequent… You engage the VR system and say “Call Al”. You merge to an off-ramp at just the right time — and the VR system might actually hear “Call <BUMP><BUMP><BUMP>” instead. Competing voices is another common pitfall in the voice-enabled car. While driving with your kids, you attempt to change the radio station by voice. The VR system now has to interpret what is meant by “DADD…” – “Tune to DAD 100.3 FM” – “…DYYY”. Noise and interferences like these can cause significant misrecognitions and other unwanted behaviors from the VR system.

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