DETROIT – In an era of digital downloads and music portability, drivers need a better way to access their music and other media files, says Vadim Brenner, senior product manager at San Francisco-based Gracenote, a provider of music identification technology.

“How do you quickly, easily and safely get to the information you want” while driving? Brenner asks during a presentation entitled “Intelligent Navigation for Music and Media from Multiple Sources,” here at Convergence 2006 Transportation Electronics Conference.

Many car owners today have massive digital media libraries and are accustom to accessing them in the same way they use MP3 players and other consumer electronics. However, in-vehicle use requires more.

“You need some sort of a system to manage and create playlists that are actively dynamic and vary depending on your mood,” Brenner says.

This becomes complicated when artists are mislabeled, classification by genres are overly broad or narrow and varying sources of media, for instance iTunes or Windows Media Player formats, create metadata inconsistencies.

Brenner recommends recognition technology to handle categorization of media and intuitively organize it, depending on the source and media type.

“Music is very personal,” he says, and can be classified in many different ways, culturally, hierarchally or relationally.

Hierarchal classification includes the familiar artist-album-genre mapping, but music also can be sorted by genre-era-tempo. Relational classification groups artists that sound alike to the user.

Related content, such as text, image and video, also can be presented in-vehicle, making it possible to read a song’s lyrics when stuck in traffic.

Brenner says Gracenote recently inked licensing deals with various music publishers to provide lyrics to its customers. The company already supplies CD identification technology for Apple’s PC-based iTunes as well as file recognition, CD recognition and cover art for Yahoo Music.

Advanced user interfaces to access digital media are moving into the car, but at a slower pace than PC applications, Brenner says.

Gracenote has been involved with the auto industry since 2001, but most customers’ names are kept confidential. “Many OEMs have our technology but haven’t announced it yet,” he says.

However, Chrysler Group is offering My Gig 20GB hard-disk drive onboard entertainment system in its ’07 Chrysler Sebring sedan.

Gracenote offers a 4 million-album directory to assign song, album and artist information to digital music files that are ripped from CDs to the vehicle’s hard drive.