Look, Ma, no hands…or eyes! This may not be the phrase most people want to hear about getting behind the wheel. At the very least, it will not inspire confidence in your passengers (unless you happen to be riding courtesy of Google’s self-driving car). But of course, this statement has nothing to do with the driver. It is instead related to the use of modern communicative technologies, namely your cell phone. In that context, functionality that allows you to take calls, send and receive texts, get driving directions, and even post updates to your Facebook wall without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road sounds pretty amazing. And since Apple has so far provided the hottest technology in this vein thanks to their comprehensive, hands-free Siri software, it seems that a number of automotive brands are keen to take advantage.
In truth, it may be that Apple has sent smoke signals to the automotive world, and it seems that they’ve garnered a good amount of interest in return. During their recent Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced that they will team up with several car manufacturers to integrate the hands-free Siri system with existing telematics. The companies they’ve contracted with so far include accessible imports and domestic brands like Honda, Toyota, Chevy, and GM, as well as higher-end luxury car makers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Land Rover. Although some have already developed competitive systems, none really match up to Siri’s broad functionality.
For example, GM has worked to improve their OnStar system to include a variety of voice commands that will allow drivers to communicate hands-free. And while they have managed some functionality in the arena of messaging (sending and receiving texts and checking Facebook via the talk-to-text feature), their technology really doesn’t hold a candle to Siri. Chevy also has their infotainment system, MyLink, but again, it simply can’t compare to what Apple has created. In fact, many auto manufacturers, despite having their own technologies in development, seem to have conceded that cell phone companies are ahead of the curve with their mobile devices and software, which is apparently why they have opted to go with the winning horse.
As for how Siri will become integrated, the mechanics may not be terribly appealing to the consumer public. If you were hoping that your car would come with the Siri software in-dash, or that you could hook up your iPhone wirelessly, you’re going to be as disappointed as the time you went looking for a transfer case for sale and ended up buying a two-wheel drive transmission by mistake. As it stands, your iPhone will interface with your vehicle via USB cable, at which time you will be able to utilize the “eyes free” system. In other words, you can push a button on the steering column to activate Siri’s voice command system (without having to look down or touch the phone at all, a complaint that many had when the purportedly hands-free system first came out). And although it seems that some companies will continue to work on their own tech, there’s no denying that Siri is currently the top dog when it comes to safe driving and connectivity, so the automakers that have thus far teamed up with Apple are sure to benefit from the partnership.
Thanks to Evan Fischer for this guest post. He is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.