DUNTON, UK - Jaguar S-type customers will find out in March how its price compares with its main rival, the BMW 5 series. They will also discover how much extra they will have to pay for the S-type's voice-activated controls option.
Automakers across the globe are also eagerly awaiting the announcement. They all know that voice activation is going to be a must-have technology in the new millennium.
Visteon is the supplier of the S-type system that listens to, repeats and carries out instructions to operate audio, phone and climate control.
'All the major OEMs in Europe, USA, Japan and elsewhere have expressed interest in the technology,' said Keith Hayton, manager of audio systems engineering at the Visteon technical unit, part of the Ford engineering center at Dunton, UK.
'There is an especially big demand from Germany, and expansion into the seven main European languages other than English will clearly be required,' Hayton said.
Visteon research indicates OEMs would consider $200-$300 to be an affordable bought-in price. But it would be up to the individual automaker to decide whether to pass on the cost directly, or to integrate it into a broader telematics package. Some might choose to offer voice activation as an extra-charge option.
Visteon did not agree on a retail price with Jaguar when developing the S-type system. 'With Jaguar, we said we would take a hit if necessary because we wanted their business,' said Hayton. 'Jaguar likes suppliers to take risks with them. Systems and component companies will survive if they are prepared to do this more and more. This is the new world in which we operate.'
Hayton believes that voice activation will become a widespread option in the executive segment in two to three years. It will then become commonplace in volume cars. 'I see cars in the Fiesta/Corsa/Polo sector with voice technology in three or four years,' he said.
The choice for carmakers will not be whether to have voice activation, but how to use it. Manufacturers will be able to choose between a number of voices and presentations. For instance, a Volvo might wish to stress safety, while BMW could concentrate on the technology aspect.
'It will be part of our quest to collaborate with the OEM to develop a personality for each model,' Hayton said. 'One day the driver will have what amounts to an intelligent conversation with his car.'