I’ve long resented the lack of Apple’s Siri integrated into vehicles. After all, Siri probably makes the most sense while driving as she (or he depending on location) can perform a myriad of tasks that otherwise require your eyes and hands. That isn’t to say Siri doesn’t flat out work, but if you’ve tried to use the voice recog system in any of today’s vehicle’s then you know how infuriating the experience can be.
Today, Chevy announced that they’re the first car manufacturer to work with Apple to integrate the service directly into their infotainment system, thus supplanting Nuance’s offering, which still remains in many of GM’s other brands. We got a hands on with the system in a secret location (not really) in downtown LA.
First things first: Siri will debut in two cars sometime early next year, the Chevrolet Spark (1LT, 2LT, EV) and Sonic (LTZ and RS). Any visuallay entertaining Siri features won’t work with the system, so don’t expect to be able to pull up webpages on the car’s 7-inch touch resistive screen, or open apps – safety is paramount and we rightfully agree.
The Siri integration works over Bluetooth only, though both of the aforementioned cars include USB inputs allowing you to charge your iOS device. That said, Chevy’s Smartlink system, which I tested out when driving the Chevy Spark in September and was relatively impressed with, stills works out of the box with Pandora, Bringo, and a few other apps Siri should play complement to.
In actual use the Siri integration isn’t that remarkable, at least not yet. However, it most certainly does work better than any other car that I’ve tested with Siri, so needless to say Chevy is onto something. Also, keep in mind that they’re still refining the system. So when it officially comes to market next year I’d expect any bugs to be worked out.
Nevertheless, Siri was aptly able to read and compose texts simply by pushing the steering wheel button. Though I was frustrated that hitting the button a second time after stating my request didn’t hit “enter” as it does directly on the iPhone – this can help limit ambient audio from leaking into the request.
And let’s not also discount the safety aspect of this integration. Siri is blocked from displaying anything on the screen that requires a visual cue, such as complex web questions, though she can still look up game scores, call contacts from your phone, play a song or artist from your iPhone’s iPod, access calendar appointments, or look up a date for a national holiday (I always have that question when I’m driving). Unfortunately, the Siri chime, as it does on all Bluetooth car systems, was clipping when the steering wheel button was pressed, and took about 1-1.5 seconds to activate.
You’ll of course need a network connection to use Siri and as of now Chevy has no plans to bring a hotspot function to these cars.