BMW taps Nuance for in-car speech recognition

BMW will be the first the automaker to incorporate Nuance Communications’(s nuan) new voice command and control platform into its dashboards. The German car manufacturer said today it is using Nuance’s Dragon Drive voice messaging technology in its BMW 7 Series flagship luxury sedans as well as the BMW 3 Series Touring and ActiveHybrid.
While voice command and dictation is now becoming common in new high-end and mid-tier vehicles, Dragon Drive attempts to set itself apart by reaching beyond the limited vocabulary of a car’s dashboard computer and into the cloud where it can access Nuance’s natural language servers. BMW is implementing Dragon Drive’s initial service, Messaging, which allows drivers to listen to speech-transcribed e-mail and SMS, as well as dictate, edit, format and send messages via voice command.
Dragon Drive links to Nuance servers either through embedded connectivity in the car or through the driver’s smartphone connection, though it’s unclear how BMW is implementing Dragon Drive in its current models. All of its newer cars come with EDGE radios to perform basic Internet tasks, but at some point BMW plans to amp up its in-vehicle connectivity. It has joined Verizon’s 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars so BMWs equipped with LTE radios on U.S. 4G bands will likely emerge soon.
In a recent interview, Nuance Mobile GM Mike Thompson said that Nuance plans to take Dragon Drive far beyond messaging, turning it into a full virtual assistant for drivers — akin to a Siri for automobiles. Nuance faces plenty of competition, most notably from Siri itself. The next version of Apple’s(s aapl) iPhone OS will support direct integration of Siri into the car dashboard. Apple licenses natural language understanding technology from Nuance, so even if Apple proves to be as dominant in the car as it is in the smartphone, Nuance stands to gain.
Research in Motion’s(s rimm) QNX, which already powers many vehicle infotainment systems, is evolving its operating system into a voice-powered personal assistant as well. While QNX licenses Nuance technology today for its basic voice command features, it’s begun experimenting with AT&T’s(s t) Watson natural language technology for its future connected car platform.