Telematics Research Group predicts that 30 million passenger cars - about half the global units - will have voice recognition capability, Automotive News Europe reported.

Around 8% of the world's passenger cars currently have voice recognition devices.

"We are on the verge of large scale numbers that will bring [voice recognition] down in price," says Phil Magney, president of the US-based telematics consultancy.

Says Arnd Weil, product manager for embedded speech at ScanSoft: "Our focus is to get speech technology into the mass market."

Through suppliers such Magneti Marelli, Delphi and Visteon, ScanSoft supplies voice recognition technology to PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Fiat, Saab, Opel, Ford and others.

Weil says the Telematics Research Group's forecast for voice recognition system take up sounds reasonable.

Voice recognition technology allows drivers to use speech commands to carry out tasks such as telephone-dialling or entering addresses into a navigation system.

It is mainly fitted in premium vehicles from brands such as BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, but is slowly entering the volume market.

The 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan launched recently in the US can be fitted with a $US2,000 speech recognition system from IBM that allows drivers to input street names into a navigation system without fumbling with knobs and buttons.

The system is also standard on the US 2005 Acura RL sedan, which will be sold in Europe in 2006 as the Honda Legend.

ScanSoft's Weil predicts that more than half the next-generation models with navigation systems will be voice-controlled.

He says: "[Carmakers] can't afford not to offer it."