Back in June, Apple announced an expansion of the Siri application that included a partnership of the voice-activated intelligent personal assistant and nine automakers: Audi, BMW, Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota. The feature opens the market for these automakers, which comprise almost 60 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., to the estimated 37 million U.S. iPhone users.
GM will be the first of those automakers to use Apple’s “Eyes Free” Siri integration, as it announced last week during the Los Angeles International Auto Show that the Chevrolet Spark and the Chevrolet Sonic will carry the feature starting early next year.
The “Eyes Free” feature is meant to be a step above – i.e. less distraction – than the already ubiquitous “hands-free” we’ve come to know. “Eyes Free” fully integrates the vehicle with the driver’s iPhone via Bluetooth. It then allows drivers to use their iPhone via Siri and control certain vehicle features, all without taking their eyes off the road.
While GM did not announce a specific date for the release of the Spark and Sonic with “Eyes Free,” it did reveal what the feature will be able to control in the two sub-compact Chevys:
- 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.
It is interesting that GM decided to debut this revolutionary feature with two sub-compacts with MSRPs under $15,000, as opposed to its Cadillac luxury brand or even a mid-level Chevy or Buick model.
“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, in a GM’s official press release announcing the “Eyes Free” debut.
What it says is that GM is banking on this feature being more popular with the young, urban consumer – i.e. those who likely own an iPhone – in turn driving up sales for their fledgling subcompacts.
“Eyes Free” can have a great affect on Apple and the auto industry – especially for those nine automakers. If these vehicles remain strictly compatible with only Apple, a good cross-brand marketing campaign – especially one focusing heavily on the safety aspect – can lead some of those 37 million iPhone users to seek a vehicle with “Eyes Free” or vice versa.
[Sources: GM , New York Times]