Apple is getting ready to compete on vehicle dashboards

Article by Anita Panait, on August 6, 2013

After many years of being hesitant to venture into the auto industry, Apple Inc. is now taking strides to enter this business sector and pose a new big threat against current providers of dashboard features like BlackBerry Ltd., Microsoft Corp. and Pandora Media Inc. By end of 2013, consumers could choose from a number of vehicle models that integrates Apple’s iPhone functions, Siri for navigation, texting, e-mails and music.

But while Apple has been hugely successful in displacing it rivals in the desktop computing or mobile phone arenas, doing the same to its competitors in the auto industry would be a very daunting task, as it has to deal with extreme temperatures, noisy cabins and long product cycles. Eric Noble, president of industry consultant Car Lab, told Bloomberg that it is impossible to “overestimate the difficulty of integrating an outside software system well into a vehicle,” something which Silicon Valley routinely fails to recognize.

In taking on the vehicle market, Apple has to recognize carmakers’ efforts to balance customer demand and safety concerns. According to researcher IHS iSuppli, BlackBerry’s QNX Software Systems and Microsoft are currently the major providers of operating system software in vehicles, while Pandora is the top in-car music-streaming service.

Carmakers, however, also acknowledge the fact that many consumers are using their iPhones as cheap substitutes for built-in navigation systems, compelling them to start working to integrate Apple’s technology to minimize driver distraction while increasing customer satisfaction. Apple’s Siri is already installed into General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Spark and Sonic, but has received less-than-rave reviews. The Spark and Sonic employs Apple’s iOS 6 operating system in their dashboard head unit, thus there is no need to install a separate navigation device.

Earlier this year, American Honda announced in a statement that Siri -- Apple’s popular intelligent personal assistant – would be installed into a number of 2013 models of Japanese carmaker Honda. Siri would be offered as a dealer-installed option for the 2013 Honda Accord and Acura RDX and ILX.

Siri comes with an "Eyes Free" mode that can limit driver distraction by keeping the iPhone's screen from lighting up. With this, Honda vehicle owners with a compatible iPhone on iOS 6 can direct their intelligent personal assistant to perform a number of specific tasks. This should allow them to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Either via Bluetooth or by plugging their iPhone into a USB cable in the car, drivers can make calls, dictate text messages as well as look up directions.

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