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Autonomous cars of the future won’t just respond to your verbal commands, they will also be able to interpret your emotions. That’s the future envisioned by mobility software startup Renovo, which today announced a partnership with conversational artificial intelligence (AI) company Speak With Me.

Speak With Me’s hybrid platform, which can run offline and take into account context, historical interactions, and personalization in responding to users’ commands, is joining Renovo’s AWare OS ecosystem, a licensable self-driving car middleware. AWare OS already integrates with products from Samsung, Verizon, Velodyne, Parsons, Phantom Auto, Metamoto, Bestmile, and others to deliver features like teleoperation, mapping, fleet management, and data services.

Autonomous taxi startup Voyage this year announced a long-term strategic collaboration with Renovo that will see its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans outfitted with AWare OS.

“We share Renovo’s vision of an open, interoperable, on-demand ecosystem where best-in-class technologies combine to foster innovation and bring about automated mobility safely, quickly, and economically,” Speak With Me founder and CEO Ajay Juneja said in a statement. “This helps get Speak With Me’s technology into more automated vehicle cabins faster, interacting with passengers and other services in innovative ways.”


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Speak With Me isn’t first to market with voice sentiment analysis — companies like Beyond Verbal, Nemesysco, and Audio Analytic beat it to the punch — but it’s one of few bringing the tech to autonomous cars. (Another is MIT Media Lab spinoff and Renovo collaborator Affectiva, which uses a combination of RGB cameras, infrared depth sensors, and microphones to pick up on drivers’ emotions.)

It’s opportune timing. A growing number of automakers, including Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Toyota, have made voice control available for their vehicles. And by 2019, the voice recognition market is expected to be worth $601 million, according to a report from independent research firm TechNavio.

Speak With Me will integrate with AWare OS’ software and services, including the automated driving system, route management systems, passenger management, fleet operations, remote teleoperation, commerce, and advertising.

“Speak With Me is a leading creator of cognitive and conversational AI technology, and we are delighted they have joined the AWare ecosystem,” Renovo CEO and cofounder Chris Heiser said in a press release. “Commercial Automated Mobility deployments must be passenger-centric, and conversational interactivity is a key interface. Speak With Me is a powerful addition to the AWare ecosystem and is now available to fleet operators who have already or are deploying services using AWare.”

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