The feature, called Siri Eyes Free has been steadily creeping into newer cars for some time now, and is a precursor (somewhat) to the more integrated offering from Apple in the automotive space: CarPlay. But while you’ll probably have to buy a newer car or upgrade your infotainment unit to get a more rounded relationship between car and device, Ford’s software update will allow cars that are as old as 2011 to learn this new trick.
Starting December 3rd, Ford will be pushing the update in stages, and should owners not have a Ford that connects to the internet, dealers will be able to install the update manually. Just in case, do remind them about it.
It is an interesting move for Ford, who has historically have shunned Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay in favour of its own proprietary SYNC in-car operating system and has also avoided smartphone-specific connectivity features up until this announcement. Perhaps we’re seeing the baby steps of a more tech-centric and open Ford.
For the uninitiated, this Ford software update would allow Apple’s voice-command system to listen to input from the driver, allowing him or her to control music playback, phone functionality, weather, reminders and calendar notification, navigation (via Apple Maps), and basic messaging merely by dictating their intentions to the car without taking their hands off the wheel.
The computation would be handled predominantly by the connected iPhone, and it will respond using Apple’s iOS digital assistant, Siri, just as any iPhone user is accustomed to doing. It is certainly a more reliable and smarter solution compared to the generic voice control functions offered in Fords previously.
Ford says the update will be compatible with model from 2011 through to 2016. Once the number of cars with the update reaches a critical mass, it should quell the criticisms levelled against Ford’s “smart” infotainment systems such as unresponsive interfaces, unreliable voice activated features, and convoluted interface design.