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Buckle Up, Siri—Meet Your Sassy New Backseat Driver

There’s nothing like having a competent navigator, DJ, and conversationalist on a long drive. Or just an iPhone.
November 27, 2012

There’s nothing like having a competent navigator, DJ, and conversationalist on a long drive. And perhaps a virtual copilot could be even better than the usual one who, let’s face it, often gets directions wrong or neglects his or her duties by falling asleep.

We’ll soon find out. General Motors says a number of its 2013 models will be compatible with Apple’s wise-cracking, know-it-all virtual assistant, Siri. In the Chevrolet Spark or the Sonic LTZ or RS, you’ll be able to connect to an iPhone and then use Siri’s Eyes Free mode without ever glancing away from the road. Siri will find directions, look up information online, send e-mails, and the rest.

Voice-control is already becoming common in many vehicles, and GM is one of several carmakers that had previously announced that it planned to integrate Siri into its vehicles.

This Thanksgiving, I rented a Ford Taurus for the drive from Boston to New York—and I had the chance to try out the voice controlled SYNC system. After syncing with my phone, I found it pretty easy to switch radio stations or make a phone call with a few spoken commands. But the system also suffered from some annoying quirks, particularly the need to stick to certain preset phrases. Siri could perhaps offer drivers a more sophisticated, and less annoying, kind of voice control (see “Social Intelligence”).

I have a question though. Will in-car voice control really be less distracting when virtual navigator can do so much more: everything from checking your calendar to sending out snarky tweets about fellow drivers? Siri might answer that, too, in time.

Here’s a video of the Chevrolet Spark with Siri:

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