The Effect of HVAC Buffeting on Automatic Speech Recognition Systems

Paper #:
  • 2017-01-1781

Published:
  • 2017-06-05
Author(s):
Affiliated:
Abstract:
Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Hands Free Communication (HFC) capabilities have become prominent in the automotive industry, with over 50% of new vehicle sales equipped with some level of ASR system. With the common use of mobile personal assistants and smartphones with Bluetooth capability, customer expectations for built in ASR and HFC systems have increased significantly. The performance of these ASR and HFC systems are highly dependent on the level of background or “masking” noise that competes with the speech engine’s ability to correctly convert the driver’s speech to actionable commands. HVAC noise provides high amplitudes of broadband frequency content that affects the signal to noise ratio (SNR) within the vehicle cabin, and works to mask the user’s speech. Furthermore, when the airflow from the panel or defroster vents are directed toward the vehicle microphone, a mechanical “buffeting” phenomenon occurs that distresses the ASR system even further. Managing this buffeting effect is a vital key to building a vehicle that meets the customer’s expectations for ASR and HFC performance. Systems design principles must be applied to ensure that the placement of the microphone and vents, and HVAC airflow management, are all designed in concert to reduce exposure to the problem. In this paper, we examine the objective effect that HVAC buffeting can have on the ASR system, above and beyond the masking noise provided when the airflow is directed away from the microphone. We also suggest metrics that help to determine when the airflow is impinging on the microphone, and propose design guidelines or active solutions that can help reduce the occurrence of HVAC buffeting.
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