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IBM patent sat nav with radio: stop retuning danger

Sick of losing your car radio station on long journeys? Does your death metal melt into Val Doonican as you clock the miles? IBM has the answer. Merging car radios with satellite navigation systems can solve the problem, it claims in a recent patent application, and it could have safety benefits, too.

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Sick of losing your car radio station on long journeys? Does your death metal melt into Val Doonican as you clock the miles? IBM has the answer. Merging car radios with satellite navigation systems can solve the problem, it claims in a recent patent application, and it could have safety benefits, too.

Ever since car radios were introduced in the 1920s they have been blamed for causing accidents by distracting drivers who retune them while on the move. Though station preset buttons have reduced the toll, more can be done, says IBM in a US patent application filed on 10 September.

A major reason motorists retune while driving, say Robert Peterson and colleagues at IBM's lab in Austin, Texas, is going out of range of a favoured station. So in patent application 2009/0228199, IBM suggests a radio with software that communicates with the car's satnav and is pre-programmed with national and local radio stations, their signal strength and their programme genres.

When you punch in a destination, the satnav works out the route as usual. But you can also key in your initial radio station and its genre - thrash metal, say, or "shock jock" talk shows. The software then works out which stations of the same genre will be available along the planned route - and automatically switches to each in turn when the signal begins to deteriorate. "This reduces the need to search for particular types of broadcast and may improve traffic safety," the patent claims.

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