Early callers will help automated phone system learn to "speak Texan"
AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Texas Department of Transportation wants to hear from Texans. Literally.
Today, TxDOT launched its new interactive voice response (IVR) interface for the Texas Travel Information Line, which provides both road conditions and travel information at 1-800-452-9292.
For the first several weeks, the new IVR system will be "learning" to understand caller's voices. The first 10,000 calls to the new hotline will supplement months of beta testing by TxDOT employees to help the automated system understand different voice tones and accents.
"John Steinbeck wrote that Texas is 'a nation in every sense of the word,' and at times, we even seem to have our own language with accents from every corner of the state," said Steve Simmons, TxDOT Deputy Executive Director.
"Now we need callers with an East Texas twang and a Panhandle drawl," said Simmons.
"We want South Texans to help the system learn to understand 'Refugio' and Central Texans to teach the computer the number of times the letter 's' is in 'New Braunfels' or how to pronounce 'Mexia' or 'Bexar.'"
TxDOT's new IVR system will be available 24 hours a day. When the state's Travel Information Centers are open, callers will be able to speak to a TxDOT travel counselor with the push of a button. Travel counselors are available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
A Big System for a Big State
The new system was designed by TxDOT and AT&T and will contain near real-time information on traffic and weather impacting conditions for the Texas roads and highways. In just one phone call, drivers can learn everything about current road conditions - from hurricane evacuation routes to construction delays.
"AT&T worked collaboratively with TxDOT to bring this innovative traffic conditions application to travelers in Texas," said Christopher Roy, vice president, Government/Education - West, AT&T Operations Inc.
"As one of the first traffic conditions' applications, this solution was more complex than most, due to the road conditions components that make it easier for callers to understand directions."
TxDOT operates and maintains an 80,000 centerline-mile highway system that consists of interstates, U.S. highways, state highways, state loops, farm to market roads and other facilities. Texas is home to 254 counties stretching across two time zones.
The new Travel Information Line IVR system is programmed to recognize the names of more than 1,200 cities and towns. The system is also designed to recognize multiple names for the same highway, such as "MoPac" and "Loop 1" in Austin or "Central Expressway" and "U.S. 75" in Dallas.
In addition to accessing highway road conditions, callers are able to speak to travel counselors during business hours and can also request travel literature.
The new Texas Travel Information Line can handle as many as 900 calls for automated information at any time. In the event of a large-scale event like a winter blizzard or a hurricane, TxDOT and AT&T will have the ability to expand the IVR system to handle higher call volumes.
Available and Updated Around the Clock
Automated information on highway conditions is updated every five minutes each hour of every day. When TxDOT employees across the state update the state's online Highway Conditions Reporting System, the new IVR phone system will have access to the new information almost instantly.
The previous TxDOT Travel Information Line included pre-recorded information that was potentially irrelevant for a traveler with a specific question about a road in one part of the state. With the new IVR technology, callers will have direct access to updates on the highways on which they want to drive.
The New Texas Travel Information Line Needs to Hear from Texans
TxDOT employees have been testing the new travel line for several months to help the IVR system "learn" to recognize different voices, accents and names. The first 10,000 calls from the public to the information line at 1-800-452-9292 will also serve to fine-tune and improve the system. Callers who have difficulty using the automated system will be able to access a travel counselor from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
If callers have feedback or suggestions regarding the new Texas Travel Information Line's IVR system, they can send TxDOT's Travel Information Division an email at askTxDOT@dot.state.tx.us.
"Last year, our Travel Information Line took almost 290,000 calls requesting reports on road conditions," said Simmons. "With help from Texans in our 'learning phase,' the new system will assist callers faster and give them the information they need. Everyone who calls the system in the early days will play a role in helping build a travel line that is created by travelers and for travelers."
The Texas Department of Transportation
TxDOT is responsible for maintaining over 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its more than 12,000 employees strive to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, and to use new financial tools, including tolling and public-private partnerships, to reduce congestion and pave the way for future economic growth while enhancing safety, improving air quality and increasing the value of the state's transportation assets. Find out more at www.txdot.gov. Follow us! http://www.facebook.com/TxDOT,
SOURCE Texas Department of Transportation