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It has been over a year in the making but Chevrolet has become the first of nine manufacturers to integrate Apple’s Siri personal voice assistant into its MyLink infotainment system, with the Spark and Sonic LTZ and RS to gain the feature next year.

Since Siri launched in 2011 with the iPhone 4S, the obvious solution to a lot of automotive entertainment systems has become a little more obvious. Instead of relying on the vehicle’s media system to do certain tasks with technology that becomes outdated by the time it gets to manufacturing phase, why not outsource it to the driver’s smartphone, which gets updated far more frequently and runs the latest technology.

This has been the approach that a few automotive manufacturers have already committed too. The idea is rather simple, by integrating an “Eyes Free” button into the vehicle’s steering wheel, the Chevrolet evokes Siri to listen to the driver’s commands. These can be anything from sending a message, checking your calendar, changing or playing songs and responding to questions that can be answered by voice.

In reality this feature is already available on basically all cars that synch to an iPhone 4S or 5 via Bluetooth, but requires physical contact with the phone. What’s unique about Eyes Free, which is currently not possible to achieve by pressing the home button on a Bluetooth connected iPhone, is the ability to switch from radio to iPod mode, not having to physically touch the phone to get a response and not having the screen light up (limiting distraction). What it can’t do, deliberately, is answer the more complicated questions that require a visual answer. This is done so to limit driver distraction.

The current problem that Siri via Bluetooth integration faces is the amount of white noise that tends to interfere with voice commands. We have personally found it difficult to get Siri to understand us via Bluetooth on many cars (but not all) given the road noise found inside a moving vehicle.

When driving it’s much more effective (but illegal) to hold an iPhone to your mouth and talk to Siri directly rather than attempt to go via Bluetooth. This is due to the iPhone’s ability to use its three microphones to determine between human voice and white noise (using noise cancelling technology), a feature that we hope car manufacturers can integrate into their in-built microphones.

This is clearly phase one of the Siri integration for General Motors, as the company already has an iPhone app for its OnStar service that allows owners to do much, much more. The OnStar iPhone app can:

  • Find a destination on your phone and send it directly to your OnStar Turn-by-Turn or In-Dash navigation system
  • Lock/unlock your doors from any distance
  • Start your vehicle remotely (based on vehicle capability)
  • Control your Holden Volt charging and charge mode settings
  • Activate your Horn & Lights to help locate your vehicle
  • Contact an OnStar Advisor, Roadside Assistance or your Preferred Dealer
  • View real-time fuel information, including fuel range, litres of fuel remaining and your lifetime fuel economy
  • View your Holden Volt battery state of charge, electric range, electric miles and litres per 100km
  • Check your current lifetime mileage
  • Check your remaining oil life
  • View your current tire pressure information
  • Access account information

We suspect all these features will eventually be built into Siri directly down the line without the need for an app, so you could indeed tell your iPhone a destination and it will synch that up with the car’s navigation system.

Ultimately Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems are likely to come out with a set of standard commands that can be integrated into any car’s infotainment system – much in the same way that Bluetooth connectivity protocols has become a standard across all cars. If it happens, it will lead to more and more manufacturers implementing better integration with smartphones.

Manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW are also working on integrating Siri into their COMAND and iDrive infotainment systems.

Holden has confirmed that Siri integration technology will feature locally in the Holden Barina Spark, with Holden’s social media and digital communications manager Andrea Matthews, telling CarAdvice that, “Siri will come to Barina CDX.” Expect more information on this ahead of the system’s release.

  • Dave W

    Google Now is faster and more accurate, ie. better than Siri. Android phones has also overtaken iPhones. Oh well… Worst case scenario, people won’t option this MyLink system.

  • Chest Rockjaw

    Hey GM, how about better cars?

    • F1orce

      Thumbs up on that.

  • Dave S

    I also hope they can carry these features over to other phone systems as well for those that run Android or Windows phones.

    I dont want my car to be an Ipod accesory.

  • Robj

    oh no, do we have to be a slave to this?

  • F1orce

    SIRI is useless..

    I mainly use my iphone for making calls, Internet and news.

    I don’t understand some people who are using heir phones all the time?.. What are they doing, just scrolling up and down for no reason.

    • Don Quay

      Siri is not entirely useless. I find her helpful for setting alarms and telling you the weather forecast, but if you don’t live in the USA, for anything else. she is ppretty useless. I can’t see it being of much use in OZ until Siri realises that the world exist outside North America. Beside, if you want this feature, it seems you have to buy a Barina, No thanks.

      • horsie

        Siri is unreal, create a sms, dictate the message and send it without touching the phone, and it works !

        • Ellipsis

          Sort of defeats the purpose of a TOUCHscreen phone doesn’t it…? 

  • Golfschwein

    120 miles per hour for a, what’s this…a Chevy Spark? RIIIIIIGHT! :)

    • Huwtm

      The Spark is too easy of a target.

  • Realmochabear

    And yet again, another company riding apples jock! Seriously, does anybody look outside the box? So much more going out there than Apple and their products. And like Dave W said, Google now is so much better and accurate!

    • Luke Brinsmead

      Android stole many good ideas from iOS. Also, iOS just recently overtook Android in the states (again).

      • Ellipsis

        Android still maintains 75% global market share. What did Android steal exactly? Rounded corners on rectangles? All I can see is Apple stealing ideas from Android. Copy & paste, notifications menu, 4″ 16:9 form factor, panoramic photos, social media intergration, etc. Not to mention all the things Android can do that iOS can’t. Bluetooth files, set default applications, native share function, auto update apps, widgets that save heaps of time being able to get the same information as opening multiple apps on iOS just from glancing at the homescreen.

        • Luke Brinsmead

          Touch screen phones never had inertial scrolling before the iPhone, as was many multitouch gestures (which are patented by Apple). The App Store and iTunes has more content and is more refined.

        • Norm

          They stole the vibe your honour…:)

          Android does seem to make people cranky? I wonder why that is?

          “OS – Cranky Pants”

  • Nada

    I’d like my Siri to sound like Eddie Murphy… “hey man, someone stole your battery, i say we go get…”

    • Dave W

      I prefer Mr. T’s BA… “I say we go straight ahead, fool!”

  • Luke Brinsmead

    Will be good keep more eyes on the road.

  • youbadgesnob

    they think apple can boost their image or whatever up. apple’s died since steve jobs did.

  • Horsie

    this is a really good idea. Siri is by far the most advanced voice controll application available . nothing on Android or any other platform comes close.

    • TG

      Ah Apple fanbois, don’t ya just love ’em!

      • Don Quay

        Apple fanboys or Android fanboys, are both equally boring. I use an iPhone and both Windows and Mac PCs. The phone does what I need it to do and the computers both have their good and bad points. Slavish devotion to a particular brand is just plain dumb and shows an inability to think for yourself. Come to think of it, just like the Hyiundai and Kia slave  that infect this site.

        • horsie

          if someone can demonstrate to me a voice control system on a Android phone that works better than siri then i will eat my words. By the way. I am no apple fanboy, i own both and mostly use my Galaxy S3

          • Dave W

            I suppose you wouldn’t know since you probably don’t have Android 4.1 (JB) yet. Wait for the JB update on your S3, you’ll love it.

            For now, just search Youtube for “Siri vs Google Now”.

  • 12incher

    SO this means Australia will get this technology in locally built cars in the next 15 years.