Forget about hands-free driving. It appears the wave of the future includes using your navigation, making calls, and even doing online searches and checking your Facebook status without ever having to take your eyes off the road. And it seems that the latest and greatest tech in the car world comes courtesy of Apple’s Siri software. iPhone 4S users will already be familiar with the interface and the many functions it provides to help drivers live their lives on the go in a totally hands-free manner. Okay, so it’s not 100% hands-free; you still have to push a button to activate the voice-command feature. But from there you can select music from your playlists, check real-time traffic and get routes, make reservations for your favorite restaurant and order tickets to a show, check all of your social networking profiles, and even ask existential questions (although you might get a snarky reply). And now it seems that this software is about to become fully integrated in some of your favorite automotive brands.
While Ford spent the beginning of the year hitting up tech shows in search of a suitable partner to help them securely launch a cloud network for their vehicle lineup (in order to offer customers unlimited connectivity on the road), Apple has been busy making deals with a slew of automakers, from luxury brands like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz, to blue-collar companies like Chrysler and GM, to popular economy imports like Honda and Toyota. According to a recent announcement made at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the tech giant will team up with this diverse array of automakers to integrate the Siri system into their vehicles. And in addition to the already lauded voice-command system, they will offer additional “eyes free” functionality to sweeten the deal. Users will simply allow the car to interface with their iPhone (via hardline) and they will then be able to control all functionality by touching a button on the steering column to activate the voice command feature.
You might be wondering what some (or all) of these car manufacturers are doing teaming up with Apple since automakers to date have been keen to develop their own technologies in-house. GM, in particular, has been taking steps to beef up their proprietary OnStar system in order to add features that allow drivers to safely receive and send text messages as well as link up to their Facebook accounts. And Chevy has been developing their MyLink infotainment system. But the truth is, a car company has yet to come up with a system as comprehensive as Siri when it comes to connected driving and safety (aside from concept cars). And since that seems to be the next horizon in automotive technology, what with more and more states pushing to enact hands-free driving laws, the first companies to breach the wall are sure to see a major boost in sales as a result.
So apparently these vehicle manufacturers are ahead of the curve. And likely they will profit while competitors fall behind (losing both their shirt and their Jeep transfer case on the bumpy road of advancing technology). Of course, some car makers are being cautious about the move, opting to include Siri only in a couple of vehicles. Perhaps they think that by putting a toe in the water they won’t have to fully submerge in the idea that phone manufacturers are cornering the market on hands-free technology for vehicles. But if taking the plunge is what it takes to sell cars, you can surely bet that more automakers will soon be on board with Siri integration.