The Detroit-based OnStar business unit of General Motors Corp. said Wednesday that it the first company to offer Nuance Communications Inc.’s (Nasdaq: NUAN) latest voice recognition software, available in 2011 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models.

The more flexible voice recognition system makes it easier for subscribers to navigate services and features through its ability to understand voice commands in a natural manner. Users can simply say, “I need to make a phone call,” instead of going through a prompt and using more formal language like, “dial” or “call.” 

Natural voice technology also allows subscribers to connect with the OnStar Virtual Advisor to access personalized weather and traffic updates by saying common phrases including, “get traffic info,” or “what’s the weather today?” Through text-to-speech technology, subscribers will instantly receive their requested update from an OnStar Virtual Advisor.

“Understanding and responding to our subscribers’ needs through natural voice recognition is one of the ways we keep drivers safely connected to the people and information that matters most to them,” said Scott Kubicki, executive director, OnStar Sales, Services and Marketing.

OnStar and Nuance also have made significant improvements that enable the system to better understand the many regional dialects across OnStar’s subscriber base. Now a subscriber in southern Louisiana will be just as easily understood as a subscriber in New York or Minnesota. To achieve this, OnStar engineers perform extensive validation tests across English, French, Spanish and Mandarin languages and dialects using various vehicle models in a wide range of driving and noise conditions to achieve flexible speech recognition. 

“Enhancing its voice capabilities demonstrates OnStar’s long-standing commitment to mobility, innovation and safety for its diverse subscriber population,” said Michael Thompson, senior vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile. “When you couple OnStar’s proven experience in safety and connectivity with Nuance’s automotive voice innovation, you have achieved a platform that allows for a smarter, simpler driving experience.”

OnStar and Nuance are also collaborating to develop uNav, a new self-service feature that allows subscribers to quickly receive directions to a destination using an automated voice system after pressing the blue OnStar button.

For 2011 model Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, OnStar Virtual Advisor service is standard on all OnStar equipped vehicles. To learn more about OnStar subscription options, visit

Comments (3)
  1. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi says:

    The problem with Speech Recognition technology is not the natural speech vs. the pre set commands. Although there is a difference in cognitive load, they both end up suffering from the recognition failure which is the problem with this Man Machine Interface.

    While GM’s Speech recognition is one of the better ones, the problem remains that none of the systems on the market can or will be able to overcome the variations associated with speech and recognition.

    A better approach would be a limited sets of commands that have very distinct differences in vowels and consinent so the system is never confused. User will have a to figure out using the same approach of how they want to write down their freinds name so they are distinct and Heather, Brother and Mother do not sound the same to the system.

    Manual interface along with an audible menu is another way to overcome speech unreliability. where drivers can select from an audible menu instead of an immaginary one (less cognitive work load).

    For more, see

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