Advanced natural speech recognition, as well as search and positioning technologies from Google, are now featured in the next generation of in-vehicle multimedia and navigation systems from the California-based Clarion Corporation of America. By incorporating Google’s cloud-based Google Places within its Smart Access connectivity platform, Clarion infotainment systems allows users access to the same type and level of location-based search services in their vehicles that they are already accustomed to on their mobile devices.
In addition, users will benefit from the comprehensive worldwide coverage and regularly updated content available through Google Places. Clarion leverages the Google Voice Search technology to bring voice recognition to the vehicle which, coupled with Clarion’s exclusive noise elimination technology, will allow its Smart Access-equipped products to recognize naturally spoken words for operation of the vehicle systems and online content while significantly minimizing driver distraction. Given the wide availability of Google Places and Google Voice Search worldwide, Smart Access will be able to offer Clarion’s OEM partners one of the most comprehensive cloud-connectivity solutions for in-vehicle use. Automotive-grade safety, dependability, reliability, and customization capabilities of Smart Access will also be enhanced further as Clarion’s global data system accesses information from Google’s continuously updated sources.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Paul Lachner, president of Clarion Corporation of America, what makes Clarion’s Smart Access connectivity platform so innovative.
Lachner: Smart Access operates as a fully customizable gateway to the cloud content and services. Unlike aggregator type platforms that just contain apps and data in one spot like a folder holding papers, Smart Access actually allows us to regulate activities and flow of content in and out of the vehicle based on several customizable criteria that can be specified by our OEM partners or recommended by Clarion to our partners. Today, there’s no other cloud-based system able to provide the security and flexibility of having built-in gateway functionality along with a robust mix of real-time services, customization, and safety protocols for in-vehicle applications in one package. Smart Access also boasts a flexible, adaptable architecture which relies on an always-on uninterrupted network and already features over a dozen customized apps. The platform is designed to adapt, grow and stay future-proof.
AI: How has Smart Access helped Clarion maintain its leadership position in the development and support of connectivity inside vehicles?
Lachner: In simple terms, Smart Access has afforded us a unique position in the in-vehicle connectivity race because of its features and design. Clarion has been working on the Smart Access platform longer than probably any other competitor in the industry. Smart Access is mature, reliable and ready to deploy and provides a robust and tested platform. Because of our OEM heritage, Smart Access is also designed with automotive-grade security in mind, which virtually eliminates the hacking worries many industry experts share when it comes to adding more connectivity inside the car.
AI: How effective has the natural voice recognition feature in your latest in-vehicle systems been?
Lachner: For years our products have had voice recognition capabilities, but our first system featuring natural “Context Aware” voice recognition (CA-VR) started shipping in November 2013 in Japan. Intelligent Voice™ is the marketing designation of our CA-VR system which is built into the product and is powered by Google. Before launching the product, the technology got a significant nod from focus groups and many of our business partners which had a chance to experiment with the product. Hence, I believe the system is going to be a very important part of our future and a giant step in the right direction for Clarion and our industry in general.
AI: What are the challenges for automotive technology developers like Clarion in furthering connected car technologies?
Lachner: The first and most well publicized challenge is to create a means for consumers to interact with their connected devices in a way that minimizes driver distraction. The policy control features enabled by Smart Access are Clarion’s solution to this problem. The second challenge is something I liken to “cat herding” which means getting OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers like Clarion, smartphone service and equipment players and other interested parties all moving in the same direction toward a common, connected car vision that will best serve the end consumer. Clarion offices in key automotive markets along with our recently opened Silicon Valley Research Center are working in a concerted fashion to bring all these players into alignment by building strategic partnerships and participating in standardization efforts. I believe a common vision is possible, but as with any such alignments, there will be winners and losers.
AI: How will 4 and 5 G broadband on wheels, real-time data services and navigation change the way we drive?
Lachner: We think that well integrated in-vehicle systems of the future will take full advantage of higher bandwidth and faster communication protocols to dramatically change the way we drive. We are working on very advanced, fully integrated smart cockpits that not only constantly monitor and inform the driver about the status of the vehicle, roads, traffic and other specifics, but are ready to take over the maneuvering and management of the vehicle based on the relative cognitive load and with minimum input from the driver. Without a fat bandwidth and proliferation of real time services and support from intelligent and adaptable transportation grids, this effort will remain more of a science fiction exercise rather than a practical engineering triumph.
AI: What are some of the latest breakthroughs in machine to machine and human to machine interfaces?
Lachner: Both fields are advancing at a great pace, and we’ll see serious innovation and out of box thinking in the months and years to come. I am particularly interested in the concept of smart cockpits and the ability to use cameras, radar, lidar and other technologies to feed continuously updated information to all types of onboard sensors and systems in order to assure driver confidence, comfort, convenience and, above all, safety, while driving. Thinking about today’s more basic interfacing capabilities, I would like to see rear-vision cameras in every vehicle as well as Head Up Displays able to show all sorts of relevant data on the windshield without requiring the driver to look at the cluster. Natural voice recognition to communicate with the system conversationally is also a very valuable development which Clarion happens to be championing along with Google.
AI: Tell us about Clarion’s R&D resources.
Lachner: Clarion has always been an R&D and engineering focused organization since its early days dating back to the year we were established in 1940. We have really never veered off course and, year after year, we have been innovating, tweaking, improving and then innovating again. We have a relentless and very talented engineering group in every major technology hotspot and our research capabilities are probably one of the best in the business. Currently, we have fully staffed research facilities in Japan, China, Europe and the US, including our latest advanced technology office in Silicon Valley which was established to take the lead role in researching and developing cloud-based technologies for in-vehicle use.