Tech-savvy drivers who miss conversing with "Siri," the chatty electronic assistant built into newer Apple iPhones, are about to get a big assist from General Motors.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, GM said it's found a way to link Siri to the new infotainment systems in its two smallest cars, Chevrolet Spark and Sonic. Drivers will be able to continue chats with voice-activated Siri, and perform the same tasks they usually do on a smartphone, from checking scores to calling friends. Now, they'll be able do those functions while watching the road.
The feature underscores how automakers are struggling to incorporate smartphone developments into cars. By using phone-powered apps for the dash, they run less risk than with built-in, captive technology feeling outdated in a few years. The Chevy owners also can use a $50 phone app to power a full-featured, in-dash navigation system.
Not be overshadowed, Ford Motor announced improved voice recognition and the ability to more easily pair to new smartphones in the infotainment system that will be in its smallest model, the 2014 Fiesta.
Both announcements were made as a prelude to the big auto show in Los Angeles, a metropolis that has some of the highest concentrations of small-car sales in the nation. Both are bringing the technology to their smallest and least-expensive cars in a bid to lure more Millennial buyers, the twentysomethings who can't get enough of all things digital.
Both GM and Ford are striving to make smartphones easier to use in the car while reducing driver distraction. GM will let iPhone users activate Siri's voice with steering-wheel buttons. It's referring to the extension to the MyLink infotainment system as "Siri in Eyes Free" mode, which "will be available in the Spark and Sonic well before the luxury brands," says Cristi Landy, Chevrolet's marketing director for small cars, in a statement.
Siri is found on Apple's iPhone 4S and 5. But even those still stuck in dial-phone age are likely to know the Siri function from Apple ads.
To make the most of improved voice recognition in its MyFord Touch system in the Fiesta, Ford is enlarging the center console screen to 6.5 inches, up from 4 inches.
Drivers won't have to say as many words to perform simple functions by voice command in the Fiesta, Ford says. Instead of having to say the stilted "play genre jazz," drivers will be able to simply say "play jazz" when trying to get the desired tunes out of their car stereos.
The system will "really help Fiesta stand out from the crowd," says Michelle Moody, Ford cross-vehicle marketing manager, in a statement.
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