Apple Introduces ‘Eyes Free’ Feature, Puts Siri in Your Car
9 automakers have signed on to have Apple’s voice assistant work with steering-wheel buttons.
The biggest news to come out of Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco yesterday -- at least from an autos perspective -- is that the company is officially (and finally) becoming an automotive supplier. Apple announced that a feature called Eyes Free, which integrates for in-vehicle use the popular Siri voice-assistant function from iPhone, will become available for vehicles from BMW, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda within the next 12 months.
On its website, Apple says it’s “working with car manufacturers to integrate Siri into select voice-control systems” through the voice-command button on the steering wheel. “You’ll be able to ask Siri questions without taking your eyes off the road … to call people, select and play music, hear and compose text messages, use maps and get directions, read your notifications, find calendar information, add reminders and more.” The website also says that using Eyes Free won't cause your iOS device screen to light up -- an effort to “minimize distractions even more."
BMW told FoxNews.com in a statement that it expects to have Eyes Free available in its vehicles by mid-2013. FoxNews.com said other automakers declined to comment, though Mercedes had earlier announced plans to integrate Siri into its A-Class vehicles, which will be available in Europe later this year. With that plan, however, a driver's iPhone will be accessed via Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system -- not with just a simple steering-wheel button, as with Eyes Free.
In other auto-Apple news, Apple is also getting into the navigation business.
The company confirmed that it’s ditching Google Maps on its devices and will now use its own proprietary 3-D mapping navigation interface. (Google announced last week that its Map App is getting a 3-D upgrade as well.) And along with its new mapping interface, Apple is rolling out another long-awaited nav feature: turn-by-turn directions.
Apple's mapping system will also anonymously collect crowd-sourced traffic data to reroute drivers around a jam, and offer integrated Yelp information for destinations such as restaurants -- at which point, of course, one could use Siri to make reservations via Open Table, as well as check movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, check sports scores and update one's Facebook or Twitter status. All with the push of a steering-wheel-mounted button.
Eyes Free is an ideal way for Apple to make its entry into the automotive world -- especially since voice activation is the least distracting method for drivers to access information behind the wheel, and is often used as a defense by automakers when they’re accused of creating or implementing distracting technology. With Apple’s history of tech innovation and interface ease, it should also be ideal for drivers -- that is, of course, as long as they own an iPhone 4S or the new iPad (which will gain Siri functionality with the launch of iOS 6 this fall).
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