Smart Phone Tech Helping Drivers Keep Their Focus

Looking to maximize the functionality of their cutting edge “infotainment” systems without causing undue distractions while behind the wheel, General Motors has announced a new voice-activated technology using Apple’s popular “Siri” voice command system. Set to be introduced in three Chevrolet models in 2014, the system would allow drivers to utilize much of the car’s in-car entertainment system without having to look away from the road, introducing the risk of an accident.

The “Siri”-led system would allow drivers to play music, change radio stations, find travel destinations, and use any other service found within GM’s MyLink entertainment system, as well as access information from their phones like contacts or appointments. It will connect to these new models through a Bluetooth system, and will be accessed through an activation button on the steering wheel, similar to those found in other voice command systems like OnStar.

GM plans to implement the new system on the new Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car, Spark minicar, and the battery-electric Spark EV. All three models are geared for younger, tech savvy buyers, of whom GM estimates that more than 90{1fc9255f709716ff2a33289826fd726eed7cedf5137bb7feefe22a1bfbde604a} already have smart phones, and use them often. “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,” says Cristi Landy, Chevrolet’s small car marketing director.

Chevrolet has also announced plans to further integrate the Siri voice command system, looking to add it into the upcoming remake of their Impala model, as well as developing a dedicated “Siri button” into future models, that would allow access to the system directly, without the need of a Bluetooth connection between a phone and vehicle. A number of other car makers are also working with Apple to create similar technology, including Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota, as entertainment systems have become a major selling point for new buyers.

Despite their increasing functionality, these in-car entertainment systems have also become a serious accident risk over the past years. According to US Department of Transportation Chief Ray LaHood, distracted driving can be linked to more than 11{1fc9255f709716ff2a33289826fd726eed7cedf5137bb7feefe22a1bfbde604a} of all highway fatalities, causing auto makers to seek alternative methods to maintaining a high level of functionality without forcing drivers to take their focus off of the task of driving. To many, voice activated systems are the answer, with the ultimate goal of using them through conversational speech, rather than through a complicated command language that may in and of itself cause significant distraction.

Early renditions of voice activated systems, like Ford’s Sync system, were met with largely negative reviews, as the system was too cumbersome and difficult to use to offer any benefits. The system was designed with the help of Microsoft, and was intended to help drivers navigate through their in-car equipment without having to take their eyes off the road. Unfortunately, the system would often misinterpret information, and was a constant source of frustration for owners. An updated version of the system, known as MyFordTouch, is set to be released in 2014.