QNX Hopes to Solve Voice Woes With New Acoustics Software

Features of QNX’s Acoustics for Voice 3.0 software include echo cancellation and noise reduction, meaning in-car phone calls should become clearer on both ends of the line.

June 27, 2014

3 Min Read
QNX Acoustics for Voice 30 should improve speech functions
QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 should improve speech functions.

NOVI, MI – Problems with voice-recognition systems, namely that they don’t work very well, was cited as the top complaint by new-vehicle owners in J.D. Power & Associates’ 2014 Initial Quality Study.

QNX Software System’s Grant Courville understands the problem well. He’s stopped using the hands-free system in his vehicle because doing the most basic of functions, such as tuning the radio, proved difficult.

“That’s too bad but it’s unfortunately the state of a lot of vehicles today,” Courville, director-product management tells WardsAuto here at a recent telematics conference.

QNX is looking to change that scenario, and says its new acoustics product, QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0, should help solve voice-system woes and improve the clarity of in-vehicle calls for recipients.

While voice systems were intended to reduce driver distraction by having drivers speak a command rather than go fishing on the instrument panel with their hands for hard controls, they can be more distracting while driving, especially when they don’t function well, says Courville.

“If you’re using hands-free (functions) and if you have to repeat yourself, (or) what you’re hearing back is not the best, then that in itself causes what’s called cognitive load, or causes problems from a distraction perspective,” he says.

Features of QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 include echo cancellation, noise reduction, adaptive equalization and automatic gain control.

The software also can support Wideband Plus for speech processing up to 11 kHz, Courville says.

“So what happens is rather than sounding like you’re in a tin can, potentially all of a sudden you can now sound much clearer, and you will hear much clearer,” he says, adding someone receiving a phone call from two people in a car with the latest QNX acoustics software should be able to tell which person is speaking.

That is, if they even can detect someone is calling from their car.

“You might not even know,” Courville says, because of the fan and wind-noise cancellation attributes of Acoustics for Voice 3.0.

QNX is releasing the software to automakers and Tier 1 suppliers in July, and Courville expects the technology to reach infotainment systems in two to three years’ time, although an earlier arrival may be possible.

The software supplier, a subsidiary of Canada’s Blackberry, also used the telematics conference here to promote a new safety-focused operating system, QNX OS for Automotive Safety 1.0.

The new OS is designed for advanced-driver-assistance systems and digital instrument clusters, and is certified ISO 26262, which is meant to prevent malfunction of electrical and electronic safety systems, notably when they interact.

“What it does from a Tier 1 or automaker perspective is it de-risks because (we've) been through all the certification (so) it saves them time and money,” says Courville.

QNX’s ISO certification won’t reveal itself to drivers, unless you consider more of them may be able to purchase a vehicle with lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control or blind-spot detection, safety systems that up to now largely have been relegated to luxury models.

“By virtue of the (ISO 26262) standard (automakers) can use our product, save money, (and) get to market more quickly, which should allow them to take those safety features and move them throughout the models within (their lineup),” Courville theorizes.

QNX is set to release the Automotive Safety 1.0 OS in third-quarter 2014.

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