Siri Integrates Smoothly, Safely in Vehicles
Siri will soon be pulling into a driveway near you, as the Apple iPhone’s digital assistant makes herself at home in dozens of new cars and trucks from General Motors’ Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands.
Siri was born to run, based on my test of Apple’s CarPlay interface in a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette convertible.
The system’s voice recognition was nearly flawless, the navigation app never set a foot wrong, music apps worked well, phone calls were clear, and the car offered to read me incoming text messages and take dictation for replies.
I seldom use Siri when I’m holding my iPhone 6, but CarPlay made her indispensable when I was behind the wheel. I connected the phone to the car’s USB port, pressed the voice button and key features on my iPhone were available without the dangerous distraction of using a handheld device while driving.
Automakers are racing to incorporate CarPlay and Android Auto into their vehicles. Both interfaces put key functions from your phone on the vehicle’s touch screen. GM is putting the finishing touches on its Android Auto now; Hyundai has Android available on its Sonata sedan and hopes to add CarPlay soon. The car companies and device-makers are working together to make sure only apps you can use safely in a car work with CarPlay and Auto. Translation: No looking stuff up on IMDb, no calling up your favorite news website to browse the latest headlines.
Plenty of useful features are still available. Web searches yielded addresses for businesses and routes to their locations. Simple commands like “Directions to John Phelan” led to a search of my contacts list and turn-by-turn instructions to my brother’s house.
GM’s implementation of CarPlay isn’t perfect. The compartment with the USB connection in the ‘Vette and some other models is small; tight for my iPhone 6, barely big enough to hold any of the bigger phablets like the 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy Note.
CarPlay is not good at giving driving directions while you talk on the phone. Built-in navigation systems interrupt your conversation to deliver spoken directions. CarPlay just emitted a beep when it was time to turn, without reminding me which way I was supposed to go.
I got so interested in the system at one point that I overwhelmed it with one request after another in quick succession. Like what happens when you drive an iPhone to distraction, the system stopped working until I parked the car and shut it off for a few minutes. As usually happens with an iPhone, it worked perfectly when I restarted.
Despite that one glitch, Siri and CarPlay are good driving companions. I’m looking forward to my first road trip with them.