Chevy Teams With Apple To Improve Voice Controls

LOS ANGELES — (WWJ) Two Chevrolet small cars will become the first vehicles that directly integrate the iPhone’s new voice controlled Siri service.

VIDEO: WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert previews the LA Auto Show.

Starting next year, buyers will be able to get models of the Chevy Sonic and Chevy Spark that have a button on the steering wheel that activates Siri on a Bluetooth-connected iPhone.  It’s a service that Apple calls “Siri in Eyes Free” mode.  And it’s been designed to work with Chevy’s MyLink connectivity system.

“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,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars. “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.”

This is one of many technology updates being unveiled at this week’s LA Auto Show.

When Apple introduced the latest iPhone operating system, it said that it was working with automakers to integrate Siri into cars.  This is the first application.  And, it comes on smaller, lower end vehicles, that are appealing to younger buyers, who often demand the latest technology.

According to GM,  owners can use Siri in Eyes Free mode to:

• Make voice-activated, hands-free calls to Contacts on their iPhone • Play songs in the iTunes library, and even switch music sources automatically from AM/FM/XM radio to iPod mode • Listen to, and compose and send an iMessage or text message to a phone number or anyone in saved Contacts • Access Calendar and add appointments • Minimize distraction even more by keeping the screen of the iPhone from lighting up, even when Siri answers simple questions such as game scores or the dates of national holidays • While in Eyes Free mode, Siri will not provide answers to complex questions that require displaying a web page.

General Motors also revealing that the 2014 Chevolet Impala, which goes on sale next spring, will have an updated version of MyLink.  GM says it will include natural voice recognition, which eliminates the need to remember specific voice commands.

“MyLink in the new Impala provides our customers with a total driver experience,” said Nina Mital, next-generation MyLink program manager. “With the natural voice recognition, it’s like having a conversation with your vehicle.”

The updated MyLink will also allow more customization and include what the company calls “large clearly labeled knobs” and controls on the steering wheels.

This comes amid complaints that these systems had put too many controls onto touch screens.  Ford has also announced that it’s putting a simpler “My Ford Touch” system into the updated Fiesta small car.

More from Jeff Gilbert

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