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Now Drivers Can Engage Siri in Safe CarPlay

Now Drivers Can Engage Siri in Safe CarPlay

Drivers of a handful of new vehicles will be able to have some fun with Siri -- and perhaps engage in some serious business too -- thanks to Apple's new CarPlay program. The system takes advantage of voice command technology and Siri's intelligent search capabilities to accomplish everything from listening to music to responding to emails -- all without taking one's hands off the steering wheel.

By John P. Mello Jr.
03/04/14 10:46 AM PT

Apple on Monday unwrapped its CarPlay auto initiative at the Geneva International Motor Show. The announcement comes less than a month after Google announced its grand plans to bring Android into automobiles with its Open Automotive Alliance.

CarPlay will enable iPhone users to make calls, consult maps, play music and receive messages either through the vehicle's native interface or through voice commands activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel.

Carplay Honda Homescreen

Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will be introducing their drivers to CarPlay this week, with BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot CitroŽn, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota expected to join the fold in the future.

"CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing.

"iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips, and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction," he added.

Siri at Your Service

Linking an iPhone via a Lightning connector to a vehicle with CarPlay lets users direct Siri to access contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voice mails. Siri allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while listening to messages, and using voice commands to respond to requests -- making calls or turning speech into text.

CarPlay also works with Apple Maps to anticipate a driver's moves by guessing at destinations based on recent trips and information gleaned from contacts, emails or texts, as well as providing routing instructions, traffic conditions and time-of- arrival estimates.

When you ask Siri for turn-by-turn directions to a location, Maps information will be displayed on the car's in-cabin display, which is typically larger than the iPhone's and more suitable for that kind of navigation.

Similar hands-free actions can access music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio -- or the car's built-in controls can be used to access that material on an iPhone. CarPlay also will support some third-party audio apps, including Spotify and iHeartRadio, for a driver's listening pleasure.

Usability Will Be Key

"This is big news, because it underscores the convergence of consumer electronics and the connnected car," said Jan Stojaspal, executive editor for Telematics Update and Open Mobile Media.

"It's also big news because Apple is taking a bigger interest in the connected automobile, which they've been doing for awhile with integrations of the iPhone with the connected car," he told TechNewsWorld.

However, it remains to be seen how CarPlay will play out for Apple and its car maker partners.

"The car manufacturers are keen to integrate smartphones into their vehicles, but they are also keen to maintain control of the connected systems," Stojaspal said.

"Apple is not known as a company that likes to plays ball, and it likes to operate in a wall-gardened system. I don't know how that's going to integrate with what the car manufacturers have in mind for the systems going forward," he added.

"There is a risk that if you're a car maker and you allow your customers to use an iPhone 5 for navigation, maybe they don't need that $1,500 embedded navigation system," Roger C. Lanctot, associate director for the global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld.

"It's kind of a gamble that they have more to gain from having that Apple-branding halo attributed to their car than they have to lose by making it easier to use the iPhone," he continued.

Usability could be another issue with CarPlay.

"If an Apple kind of experience can be created for consumers who are heavily embedded in that experience, then that will lead to consumer interest in CarPlay," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director for global auto at J.D. Power.

"The key to this is how well you execute it. Can it be managed in a way where I'm getting the value but not being put in a situation where either the vehicle or device is difficult to operate? I haven't seen how well that's going to be tied together yet," he told TechNewsWorld.

"From a consumer's perspective, the expectation is they will have an Apple experience," he added. "The jury is out on that until we see it."

Google's Big Idea

Now that Apple has stepped up its commitment to the connected car, will it continue to do so?

"I think there are some real questions in the long run about Apple's commitment, but it's pretty clear that it definitely has a team in place for this, unlike Google," said Lanctot.

Yet Google's goals in the automotive space appear to be much larger than Apple's.

"Google wants to take the car and make it part of the Internet of Things," said Dave Wagstaff, vice president and chief architect of Bsquare, which has worked with Microsoft on its connected car efforts.

"Apple is focused on its equipment, while vendors like Tesla and Google are interested in getting data out of or into the car," he told TechNewsWorld.

To some analysts, Apple's CarPlay announcement was just another sign the company was losing touch with its customers.

"Instead of delivering innovation to the marketplace, Tim Cook has started to deliver imitation to the marketplace," Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research, told TechNewsWorld.

"This car stuff is relevant from the revenue perspective and irrelevant from the stock movement perspective," he added. "It is laughable."


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.


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