ATX, which claims to be the world's leading independent provider of telematics services, has unveiled the first electronic vehicle owner's manual (or e-owner's manual) to provide drivers access to their vehicle's manual as the vehicle is moving.

The e-owners manual uses interactive voice recognition technology to provide drivers with a simple, hands-free interface that enables them to learn about their vehicle's operation. It can also remind them when vehicle maintenance is needed and when specific vehicle functions should be inspected.

"This is a service that vehicle owners can easily use to acquire information about today's increasingly complex vehicles when needed and without having to search for answers in a thick owner's manual," said an ATX spokesman. "The e-owner's manual is like having an automotive technician sitting in the passenger seat anytime you have a question about the car. And if you don't get your question answered through the electronic manual - with a telematics-equipped car - you can always ask for an operator and receive an immediate response."

Subsequent applications will notify drivers when the environment outside the vehicle requires a change in vehicle operating procedures. For example, freezing temperatures could prompt an audio notification to the driver that added traction control or outside mirror defrosters should be engaged.

The e-owners manual also helps vehicle manufacturers and dealerships promote a vehicle's value-added features that often go unnoticed and unused by its owner. What could often be time-consuming for dealers to explain, and vehicle owners to absorb, is now conveniently accessible to vehicle owners via voice-operation when they have time or when needed. Content of the e-owners manual also can be modified to highlight features the vehicle manufacturer would like to promote or customised to respond to questions pertaining to specific models or model lines.

"Automakers and dealers want to ensure that drivers are aware of the added value built into their vehicle," ATX said. "Telematics should be designed to deliver a return on the maker's investment in the vehicle and the dealership's investment in the customer. The e-owner's manual helps achieve this."

Initial development of the ATX e-owner's manual began by formulating instructive responses to the most frequently asked questions posed by actual drivers. Many drivers become frustrated with a printed owner's manual because there is so much cross-referencing. For instance, attempting to learn how to re-set the time on the digital clock integrated with the audio system on the dashboard often requires a vehicle owner to survey a range of potential terms to describe the situation -- clock, time, audio system, CD-audio system.

"A voice-based manual is much more convenient to the driver, and we've made it simple: no need to verbally navigate through a cumbersome menu of questions," added the spokesman. "Once the e-owner's manual addresses the range of questions that customers are asking, the system can incorporate additional responses to questions they should be asking."