Ford has announced that it will be pushing a major update to its Sync in-car software, which will bring Siri Eyes-Free to Ford’s cars.
The update will be brought to as many as five million cars that are equipped with Ford’s infotainment system, and the update will be available on any Ford car since 2011 that has the second-generation of Sync.
“SYNC, Ford’s entertainment and communications system, was designed to be flexible and updatable, just like other mobile technologies, so our customers are able to get the most out of their smartphones while behind the wheel,” said Sherif Marakby, director, Ford Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering, in a statement. “Siri Eyes-Free is another great voice-activated feature that not only adds convenience but helps our customers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”
While the update will bring a number of new features to Sync, perhaps more notable is the fact that it will bring Siri Eyes-Free to cars, which is essentially a stripped-down version of Apple’s in-car infotainment system, CarPlay.
It’s important to note that the third-generation of Ford Sync already includes Siri Eyes Free, so users with that software won’t notice any difference.
So what exactly is Siri Eyes Free? Well, as mentioned, it’s essentially a stripped down version of CarPlay, designed for cars that don’t have displays or the capabilities for a full version of CarPlay.
The software essentially integrates voice control into the car, allowing users to control Siri without having to look at their phone at all. Things like messages and emails can be read back to the user, ensuring that the user doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road, hence “Eyes Free.”
Users can ask Siri to do things like call people, play music, use maps, and so on. Of course, this probably doesn’t sound too different than the normal version of Siri. The difference between normal Siri and Siri Eyes-Free is the fact that the software integrates with features in the car. For example, with Siri Eyes Free can be activated through buttons on the steering wheel.
Siri Eyes Free was first announced back in 2012, and has since been integrated into a number of cars from a number of different companies. These companies include the likes of Chevrolet, BMW, and obviously Ford.
It’s important to note that Ford Sync wasn’t associated with Apple’s CarPlay or Siri in any way. As some reports note, it was first built on top of Windows Embedded Automotive, with the next major version of Sync to be built on QNX from Blackberry. Because of this, the implementation of Siri Eyes Free is a pretty big effort from Ford, and probably also from Apple.
Of course, while Siri Eyes Free is a great way to implement Siri into the car, those that have a compatible car will likely enjoy CarPlay even more. CarPlay almost completely integrates iOS into the car, with things like maps, music, and even certain third-party apps being shown on an in-car display. CarPlay is voice-controlled, ensuring that users keep their eyes on the road, however in case a user does decide to look at the display, things like app icons, text, and so on, have been enlarged in an attempt to ensure that users can quickly find what they need and return on concentrating on the road.
CarPlay also doesn’t rely too much on software within the car, instead relying on software already built into the phone. What this means is that users’ data and preferences are reflected in CarPlay, meaning that data doesn’t have to be constantly synced between the phone and the car. Users simply can plug their phone into the car or connect to the car via Bluetooth, and CarPlay will take care of the rest.
Of course, as rumors suggest, Apple has taken much more interest in the auto industry than just infotainment, and while Ford is now implementing Siri Eyes Free into its cars and partnering with Apple, the two companies could soon be competitors. Apple is reportedly developing an autonomous car of its own, following the lead of companies like Google. It will certainly be interesting to see if these rumors turn out to be true.