Automotive industry partners with Apple on Siri

Posted by Shane McGlaun

A number of automotive manufacturers currently integrate hands-free technology in their automobiles, allowing drivers to focus on driving, rather than manually accessing various devices.

One of the most popular and best-performing systems out there is Ford's Sync system, which helps the driver access climate control systems and the entertainment hub using his or her voice.

The system also interfaces with a number of smartphone apps - facilitating direct voice control over the device. 

Ford's software partner for Sync is Microsoft, so it comes as little surprise that Apple now stands ready to compete with Microsoft and Ford in the lucrative auto space.

Indeed, nine different automotive manufacturers have already signed up to collaborate with Apple on its Eyes Free component of iOS 6.0 announced this week.

"You've heard of hands free before," Apple senior vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall said recently. "Hands free allows you to keep your hands on the steering wheel while you use your phone. Well, we want to integrate Siri even better with the car. And so we're working with a number of car manufacturers to enable you to use a button right on the steering wheel to bring up Siri."

When a Siri-enabled iPhone is docked in a vehicle, the iPhone display remains dormant so as to not distract the driver. Instead, Siri communicates with the driver, who controls the handset via voice and, in some cases, a steering wheel mounted button.

This all sounds very similar to Ford's Sync. The major difference? Sync is an open platform and will work with any smartphone, while Apple's system is only for Cupertino's iPhone.

As noted above, Forestall recently announced the nine carmakers committed to Eyes Free integration within the next year, including BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda. Notice the conspicuous absence of Ford and other manufacturers that have been pushing their own hands-free system for a long time.

Siri Hands Free tech allows users to place phone calls, play music, hear and compose text messages, use maps, get directions, read notifications, find calendar information, and set reminders.