Expect to hear Siri's voice a lot more when you travel by car. On Monday, Apple launched its CarPlay system for the iPhone that more extensively integrates the popular smartphone -- and its intelligent voice agent Siri -- into a variety of cars.
While some Bluetooth integration with the iPhone already exists, CarPlay is designed to take it further. It allows iPhone users to make calls, use Maps, listen to music or hear messages by voice control or via a touch to the car's interface. A voice control button on the steering wheel of selected models, for example, can now activate Siri.
Apple said that compatible cars from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will be shown this week at the Geneva International Motor Show, where the CarPlay announcement was made.
CarPlay will be coming later to vehicles from other car makers, including BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. The automobile is one of the new frontiers for "mobile" computing, with Microsoft, Google, Nokia and others currently involved in some forms of car integration for their technologies.
CarPlay begins in 2014 models, and works with Lightning-enabled iPhones, such as the 5s, 5c and 5.
Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing, said in a statement that "iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction."
Features include the ability to respond through voice commands to incoming messages or notifications, which are read by Siri. Users can dictate their responding messages or initiate a phone call. The company also said that Maps becomes more intuitive because it anticipates destinations based on trips indicated in contacts, e-mails or texts.
Siri can also be asked to play a music selection from the user's playlists, podcasts, audiobooks or iTunes Radio, or a user can employ the car's built-in controls. CarPlay also supports such third-party services as Spotify and iHeartRadio.
'iOS in the Car'
The CarPlay announcement comes a few days after a confirmed report that one or more Apple executives met with Elon Musk, the CEO of electric car maker Tesla. While there was speculation Apple might be interested in buying the electric car maker or more fully integrating the iPhone, others have suggested that meeting was primarily focused on collaboration for battery technology.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that CarPlay had been announced as "iOS in the Car" at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, although now the company has offered more details as it launches the initiative.
He noted that CarPlay "goes far beyond" the basic Bluetooth integration that many car makers have already tried, in that it offers "deeper control and more uniform integration."
Greengart also pointed out that car makers are still "building extensive systems in their cars that go beyond the iPhone," to make it clear that they're "not saying it you want to drive our car you need an iPhone."