Dial-up directions

Drivers could soon be able to call directory enquires, ask for an address and receive turn-by-turn voice-transmitted directions over their mobile phone.

Drivers could soon be able to call directory enquires, ask for an address and receive turn-by-turn voice-transmitted directions over their mobile phone, using text-to-speech technology being developed and marketed jointly by Edinburgh-based Rhetorical and Motorola.

The system, which is still in its early stages, is providing an advanced navigation system for hire car drivers in the US.

Using Motorola’s ViaMoto software, the Rhetorical text-to-speech system is designed to give vocal guidance instructions that are created and delivered to a GPS-compatible mobile phone. The technology is considered to be more flexible than some existing in-car navigation systems, and can be used both inside and outside the vehicle.

Although it is illegal to use mobile phones while driving in the UK, Rhetorical said thesystem could be used as a hands-free docking kit inside the vehicle.

‘The system is being used throughout the US, where Avis hire car drivers can use it through the company’s Avis Assist option. Avis Assist is currently available in 20 cities including Dallas, Washington, Boston and Newark,’ said Marc Moens, Rhetorica chief executive.

In operation, drivers use ViaMoto to select their destination in one of three ways: calling an operator, using the phone keypad or through a web interface device. Voice directions for a route are determined by ViaMoto servers, downloaded and then stored in the phone. The directions from the current GPS location to the destination are then automatically read out to the driver.

Rhetorical believes the technology can also be used for a wide range of other applications – for example, trainee taxi or bus drivers learning new routes.

‘The system also offers significant advantages to delivery drivers by enabling more punctual dispatches, without the time and hassle of getting lost and stuck in traffic jams,’ said Moens.

The system can also be set up to work with GoViaMoto software, designed to transform mobile phones into ‘navigators’ that deliver textual and/or audible route guidance which speaks out street names while giving directions.