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Car Of The Future Will Track Down The Nearest Chinese Takeaway

By Martin Bensley     Aug 17, 2001 in Technology
YORKSTOWN HEIGHTS, NEW YORK (dpa) - Tomorrow's cars may be able to find the nearest Chinese takeaway, read out e-mails and tell you whether the engine is running properly.
Experts at the International Business Systems (IBM) research headquarters in New York state say these tasks could soon be taken care of by "automotive information systems", speech-activated Internet computers that enable drivers to stay in touch with what is happening inside and outside the vehicle.
DAISY - short for Driver Assistance and Information Systems - is the testbed for several years' worth of work in this field by experts at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center.
"The purpose of DAISY is to show how technology can provide the driver with real-time information about the state of the vehicle and link the vehicle with a variety of remote services," team member Anthony Levas told IBM Research magazine.
DAISY applications range from an airbag alert, which automatically summons police and fire brigade after an accident while giving the car's coordinates using the Global Positioning System GPS, a "concierge" service to recommend restaurants and nightspots and devices to deliver e-mails and traffic alerts to a moving car. Packages being developed could even "read out" web content to the driver using a synthesized voice.
Some carmakers, General Motors for instance, have incorporated aspects of the DAISY technology into top end models but IBM says it wants to see the same service made available to millions of non- luxury car owners. That means ensuring the systems are robust and maintenance free.
If a driver relies on conventional car instrumentation, he or she may not learn of a fault until it is to late to stop further mechanical damage. Oil warning lights or pressure gauges for example are usually calibrated to respond when the engine is about to expire and not when an initial fluctuation - which might point to an oil leak - occurs.
DAISY alerts the motorist using an audio icon or what is known as an "earcon" - a recorded voice message which might say "Excuse me, engine cylinder number 2 is not firing. See your dealer as soon as possible." The system would also explain the significance of some dashboard warning lights and recommend a course of action. In the case of imminent danger an alarm would direct the driver to stop.
The system can also give the motorist a status report at any point during a journey by gathering data from a battery of diagnostic sensors.
Cars that talk to the driver are not entirely new and in the 1980s Britain's Rover marque experimented with recorded voices telling motorists to fasten their seat belts. Customers found them irritating and the gadgets were dropped. With today's technology a car could theroretically conduct a lengthy dialogue with its driver but IBM experts believe this is probably not what most customers want.
To avoid a potentially dangerous information overload "the system must convey the right information at the right time, so that the driver does not say, get an e-mail message when he's trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle, said Paul Chou, manager of the mobile solutions group at the Watson Research Center.
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