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Ask your car for directions

Honda builds voice-activated navigation into vehicles

Honda has teamed up with IBM to build a voice-activated in-car navigation system, based on IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition technology. The car maker plans to start offering it as an option in some of its vehicles.

The system, which will be available as an option on 2003 cars in some regions, will include an embedded version of ViaVoice that allows drivers to ask for directions and hear responses from the computerised system.

Until now, interaction with car navigation systems has commonly been through a touch-panel display, so operating the system while driving is considered dangerous because it means drivers must take their eyes off the road.

With the new system, drivers have to press a 'talk' button located on the steering wheel to get directions. The system can recognise around 150 English language commands, such as 'find nearest gas station', 'find nearest ATM' and 'find nearest Italian restaurant', and can cope with a range of accents, according to IBM. It is also able to respond to commands to find the quickest route to a specific address.

Honda UK said that it was about to launch a touch-screen navigation system in this country, but that voice-activated navigation was "a long way off". So for the time being, if you want to live out your Knightrider fantasies you'll have to ship your car from the US.

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