Distracted driving and hands-free calling are both very hot topics these days. And Apple is looking to help solve the problem with its new automotive integration of Siri called Eyes Free.
Apple announced the Eyes Free system at its World Wide Developers Conference today during its keynote. The system will integrate Siri from the iPhone and iPad with Bluetooth voice command systems with the hands-free button on the steering wheel. Apple announced nine automakers that will launch the Eyes Free system in the next 12 months, including: BMW, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Honda, and Chrysler.
You'll note that Ford, Lincoln, Hyundai, and Kia are all absent from the list of automakers working with Apple. That might have something to do with the fact that these four automakers infotainment systems all have a back end that works on Microsoft software. Does Apple not want to work with automakers that are working with Microsoft, or are these automakers under an agreement with Microsoft not to work with the competition?
Ford's system is called MyFord Touch, and it has taken quite a bit of heat since it launched. While the system is very powerful and seems useful on paper, in reality it can be confusing and sometimes just doesn't work. An update recently came out that removed streamlined the interface and improved performance; but many still find the system to be confusing. MyFord Touch is available on nearly all of Ford's current and upcoming products such as the new 2013 Escape.
Lincoln has a system that is essentially a re-skinned version of MyFord Touch, dubbed MyLincoln Touch. The system has the same capabilities and same issues. But it also has the same redeeming qualities on paper that make MyFord Touch so powerful.
Hyundai's system is called Blue Link and it's much less confusing than Ford's system. It has a few large buttons and uses your smartphone to connect to the Internet. Blue Link is available in almost all the current Hyundai models such as the mid-size Sonata and new full-size Azera. And it'll be coming in the new 2013 Santa Fe crossover early next year.
Last but not least is Kia, Hyundai's cousin. Kia's UVO system features large buttons, but you mostly operate it via voice command. It's available on models like the new 2012 Rio and 2012 Optima, but you can't option a car with both navigation and UVO, yet. Kia tells us this is coming.
So what does this all have to do with Apple's Siri announcement with the Eyes Free system? It's simple, Apple's announcement shows how it plans to integrate its iPhone and iPad into new cars by using existing hands free buttons with automaker support. It's Apple's way of integrating its devices and software into new cars, without building back-end software for infotainment systems such as Microsoft has done.
So tell us, do you think Apple's integration of Siri with Eyes Free is a better way to go than opting for a built-in navigation and infotainment system from an automaker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.