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This is your Commodore speaking, mate

True blue: The VF Holden Commodore will be loaded with new electronics to enhance the driving experience.

Aussie voice recognition expected to be included in hi-tech VF Holden Commodore

12 Sep 2012

HOLDEN VF Commodore owners will have plenty to learn after they buy the next big Holden, most likely including a voice recognition system featuring a broad Australian accent.

The VF – to be released next year – will feature a big step forward in electronics and efficiency, GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said after addressing a Holden Volt pre-launch function in Sydney this week.

The launch date is still to be set for the VF Commodore – a heavily upgraded and facelifted version of the current VE – but it is expected in the middle or second half of the year.

Mr Devereux said the VF would receive “quite a big upgrade” dynamically and electrically as part of a plan to make it more competitive on the world stage.

“The car is going to be quite an advanced car, a world-class car,” he said. “(It) car will feel quite a bit different.”

And the Commodore is likely to sound different, too. It is expected to have a locally-developed voice recognition system that will not only be able to understand a broad Australian accent, but will be able to respond in the same tones, if the driver chooses.

13 center imageLeft: Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

The main game, however, is to improve fuel efficiency.

“There are quite a few things we have done to lighten the vehicle to get down to that mid-8.0 litres (per 100km) fuel efficiency, with very good power,” Mr Devereux said.

“So, it will be very relevant on fuel efficiency, but also the technologies and features of the car will be quite a bit different than people are expecting.”

The company has already announced that the VF will have the first aluminium panels ever fitted to a mass production Australian car, with the bonnet and, probably, the boot lid, being the main contributors to a total weight saving expected to approach 40kg on the bodywork.

GoAuto was allowed to lift the new aluminium bonnet off a workbench in Holden’s development lab during the recent Focus on Manufacturing event at the Elizabeth, South Australia, plant.

The new unit, with reinforcing ribs but no sound deadening, weighed just 9kg, down from 17kg for the current steel unit.

The company gave no details about which other panels maight be switched to aluminium, but the boot lid and door skins would appear to be contenders.

Apart from a change in metal, the body is going to be largely unchanged, with all the effort being focused on making the VF as sophisticated and efficient as possible under the skin.

But some idea of how the bodywork will change will be apparent when the new Chevy SS stock car makes its debut in February at the Daytona 500. The Nascar Chevy will be used to promote the VF-based Chevrolet SS sports sedan, which will be made in Australia.

Mr Devereux would not be drawn on how the VF would be improved electrically, but it is known that Holden has been working on an advanced centre stack system with voice recognition.

The work has been done in conjunction with a team put together by the AutoCRC. Other members of the team include La Trobe University and the Queensland University.

One of the key elements developed by the AutoCRC team has been a new system using more than one microphone and a technique called delay sum beam forming, which feeds the more accurate signal through some new, patented software.

Another clever part of the system is the assembly of a database of peculiarly Australian words and phrases so that the system will be able to more readily recognise commands spoken with an Australian accent.

Up to now, voice recognition systems have only offered two types of spoken English, one from the UK and one from the US.

The AutoCRC team compiled a database of Australian phrases and Australian pronunciation of English words.

This database was assembled using dual microphone inputs and was done in seven different driving conditions to maximise the accuracy of the voice recognition system.

Having an Australian language option on VR systems will help to further reduce delays and distractions caused by inaccurate reading of the driver’s speech.

When asked if the AutoCRC system would appear on the VF, Mr Devereux remained uncharacteristically silent.

Mr Devereux was also cagey about whether Holden might resurrect the turbocharged V6 version of the High Feature V6 made at Port Melbourne.

The 2.8 was initially made for export to Saab, Alfa Romeo and Cadillac, but all of those orders have dried up. Some of the engines are still exported to Germany for the Opel Insignia OPC.

The 2.8-litre engine might be well suited to Holden’s quest to further reduce fuel consumption while at the same time ensuring performance does not suffer too much.

He was asked why Holden never used the turbo version in Australia.

“We did build it here. I don’t know what the decisions were for the VE. I do know what the VF’s (decisions) are, and we’ll say soon enough.”

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