General Motors To Offer Apple Siri Eyes-Free Functionality Starting With Chevy Sonic, Spark15
Last week, Apple announced a host of planned updates to the Siri personal assistant service found in company’s iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet (Siri integration is coming to iPad in the fall). One of those updates, called “eyes-free”, allows an iPhone or iPad user to use Siri without picking up or looking at the device to initiate the feature, which can be used to schedule a meeting, send a text message, add a reminder, find a local restaurant, check sports scores, and perform a myriad of other tasks — all using natural-language voice commands.
During Apple’s presentation, the company’s Senior Vice President of iOS development Scott Forstall prominently displayed a list of nine automakers that have been working with Apple to bring Siri hands-free functionality to their vehicles. One of those automakers was General Motors.
Today, GM Authority has learned that The General will soon introduce Siri eyes-free integration in its vehicles and the first ones to get the integration will be the Chevrolet Spark and Sonic. While the automaker’s media representatives didn’t provide specific timing details, we were told that we should expect an announcement within the next 12 months.
The GM Authority Take
Siri eyes-free falls well within GM’s strategy of allowing the smartphone to carry out the functionality it was engineered for while allowing the user to access using the vehicle’s natural interfaces (buttons, etc.), as pointed out to us by GM’s Scott Fosgard. In fact, doing so keeps complexity out of the vehicle and allows GM to keep costs down — a win-win, if you ask us.
Here’s the way we imagine eyes-free would work in the Sonic and Spark: the driver will use a button on the steering wheel (likely the push-to-talk button) to initialize Siri, which will then open the car’s Bluetooth microphone and feed the audio to Siri on the iPhone or iPad. Currently, Siri can only be initialized by picking up the iPhone and holding down the home button — far from the ideal eyes-free and hands-free experience. The question now is whether Siri eyes-free will require Chevy MyLink infotainment, or if it will be able to work using Chevy’s default MyColor Touch Radio experience. Either way, it’s great to see The General on the leading edge of integration of in-car infotainment systems and devices.
But forget all that; guess who isn’t on the list of automakers collaborating with Apple to safely bring Siri functionality to their vehicles? Ford isn’t. So much for the all-mighty SYNC. We kid, of course. But really…
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This is a great answer to the texting while driving issue, not having to physically pick up or even look at the phone while still being able to receive and respond to texts or emails will be a huge safety improvement. This is essentially what I do now when I have a passenger in the front seat, just have them perform all those functions. Is Siri becoming the new Kit? How long before we ask Siri for a destination and she takes us there…10 years?
Of course Ford isn’t on the list!! SYNC is by Microsoft and I don’t think they would like Ford having their competition on board a vehicle with SYNC. How about Samsung’s S-Voice? Is there anything in store that GM may also use S-Voice in its vehicles? I’m leaning to buy the SIII rather than an iPhone.
Why would anyone actually spend their money to get that garbage and not an iPhone?
From what little I’ve seen of them, both Siri and S-Voice have bugs to work out, and not everyone worships at the altar of Steve Jobs.
@Brian_E The only difference is that Siri (and the iPhone itself) is much more useful and is part of an integrated solution. Seriously, there’s no comparison when it comes to the user experience of an iOS device and that of the competition.
@Freddie To say that SYNC won’t support Siri eyes-free is to miss the point; it doesn’t matter who makes/collaborates with an automaker to make the infotainment system. The goal is to work across many devices and platforms. Could you imagine if, for instance, SYNC didn’t work with the Music/iPod feature of iPhones and iPods because Microsoft chose not to support it since Apple is a “competitor”? That would be asinine.
Interestingly, iOS devices make up more than half of all devices used/paired with SYNC in America. So ultimately, the goal is to support as many devices/platforms as possible — and I’m sure Ford/SYNC will be on board eventually. I just couldn’t resist the dig in the article… even though I use and love SYNC every day.
Thanks for the explanation. With the consistency of the iOS, I can see the advantage of developing an integrated solution with the iPhone (and the difficulty of adapting to multiple Android versions). I only made the jab at Jobs because I know alot of people (like me) get turned off by the iPhone hype (irrationally or not). I’m sure those people will also want a similar feature in their Android phones as well. Probably in the future there will be Android Eyes free functionality, and I don’t fault GM for starting with Apple – it is the logical choice.
Well, since writing this story, I’ve had a chance to speak to a few folks who do these kinds of integrations in their sleep and according to them, it’s quite an easy solution.
In a nutshell, the automakers won’t be doing anything special. All they will do is modify the phone’s Bluetooth mic profile on the fly to serve as the input for Siri and then pipe Siri’s speech via A2DP/Bluetooth audio. A press of a steering wheel button to turn the input on, basically.
The tricky part is opening the car’s mic input without the user pressing a button after the initial Siri activation, in order to reply to Siri on the fly.
Anyway, the point is that this can be done with all kinds of systems in a not-so-difficult way — as long as the systems are somewhat standardized and unified. In the case of android, it’s a mess of devices and non-standardized software, which hampers the ecosystem itself. The solution is for Google to start cracking down on its “partners” to make better products. We’ll see if that happens.
There are more Android smartphones than iPhones in America and in the world. Apple may be an American brand, but all the iPhones are Chinese (Foxcomm makes them). So why does GM leave out the Android smartphone system (which is American – remember Google)? Most Android phones are made by American allies (South Korea, Taiwan, even Japan), and few are Chinese. GM uses its own proprietary O/S in its vehicles, which is virus free and difficult to hack (only through the use of the native command codes).
What about OnStar? Can it work better with Android phones?
The problem is that each manufacturer has slightly different implementations of the OS, and less than 10% of Android phones are running the latest software. Trying to be compatible with all the different versions could be a real nightmare for the car companies. Meanwhile, almost 90% of iPhones are running the latest software. Much less headaches for them.
Are you trying to paint Apple and iPhone as “unAmerican”? If so, that’s the biggest crock I’ve ever heard. Apple is an American company with all of its design, engineering, marketing, operations, and pretty much all other aspects of business except for manufacturing located in America. How about HTC, Toshiba, Nokia, and Samsung? Samsung is a S. Korean company that is notorious for stealing Apple ideas and technology, most of which is patented!
The fact that there are “more Android smartphones than iPhones in America” is true, but that’s like saying there are more Chevys in the world than Cadillacs. No shit.
Siri Eyes-Free sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to get a car with this available. The iPhone is clearly the best phone. I can’t see owning anything else. When you look at the build, workmanship and reputation of Apple, I wonder how the other companies even exist.
Hey this got picked up on macrumors, not everyone was a fan of the rear end of the green Spark they put up but I definitely think being out front on this helps GM’s image.
Great to see this addition to the Apple saga in the ‘offline’ world. Looking forward to the new cars that are build with this functionality.
My 2011 Chevy Cruze can access Siri by pressing the handsfree button, then saying, “Bluetooth, Voice” and Siri loads right up over Bluetooth.
John, the goal of integrating should be to activate Siri at the touch of a button, rather than saying “Bluetooth” or “Voice” after pressing the button. There are also some issues currently with interacting with Siri after the initial command.
The point is to emulate the “home” button via a button in the vehicle which currently isn’t entirely present.