November 29, 2012
GM Brings Apple To Their Cars
General Motors announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show that they’ll be bringing Apple’s Siri to two of their automobiles early next year. The company had already said they’d be integrating Apple’s technology into their cars, but only today mentioned which cars will be receiving the Apple treatment.
The Chevy Spark— GM’s little 84 horsepower urban commuter — will have Siri functionality baked right in, as well as the younger-leaning Chevy Sonic.
When Scott Forstall announced all the changes to Siri during this year’s WWDC, he demoed the “Eyes Free” mode made to be integrated into newer automobiles. A slide behind him displayed the names of some familiar auto makers, such as Audi, BMW, GM, Mercedes, Toyota and others as partners. Today’s announcement is an extension of this Eyes Free functionality, allowing iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 owners to pair their handsets via bluetooth with the Chevy MyLink infotainment center in their vehicles.
Rather than press and hold the home button on their iPhone, drivers can press and hold a button on the steering wheel to call up Siri. Her voice will then play through the speakers, allowing the driver to keep their hands on the wheel while they ask Siri to place calls, send texts or play music.
In addition to Eyes Free mode and other tricks, (such as movie times and sports scores) Siri has also been expanded to work on newer iPads. There isn’t any word regarding Siri on an iPad working in these new vehicles.
“It says a lot about our commitment to small-car customers that Chevrolet has announced that Siri Eyes Free capability will be available in the Spark and Sonic well before the luxury brands,” explained Chevrolet marketing director Cristi Landy.
“Safe, easy, reliable and portable connectivity is a top priority for our customers, and Siri complements MyLink’s existing capabilities to help deliver an incredible driving experience.”
Sara LeBlanc, who works in the MyLink department at Chevy, explained in a video that over 90% of these small-car customers have smartphones, thus driving Chevy to build an infotainment center which would allow them to bring the functionality of the iPhone into their cars. Of all the automakers who have said they plan to bring Eyes Free mode to their vehicles, Ford is noticeably absent. Ford has been pushing their own technology, Ford Sync, which pairs with many other smartphones via Bluetooth and can perform many of the same tasks as Siri.
While these younger customers may already be adept at pairing their smartphones with their infotainment centers, GM is concerned those less-than-tech savvy customers may have trouble understanding MyLink. In a separate announcement, GM has said they’ll be borrowing another page from Apple, rolling out their own version of the Genius Bar to their sales floors. Now, 25 specialists will be visiting more than 4,000 stores to train the salespeople how to explain this new technology to every customer.
“You see a lot of people get into the vehicle, and they can’t figure out the damned system,” said Mark Harland, the manager of GM’s connected customer team, speaking to Reuters.
“They get frustrated, and they get online and bash it, and that ends up on J.D. Power and Associates.”