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Apple iOS 8 update may add cool features to CarPlay

Alternative to voice-to-text could be of interest to drivers

Published: June 04, 2014 04:30 PM
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

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Apple users will soon be able to easily “text” the sound of their voice with the iOS 8 update that will be available this fall. This is a free software update for recent generations of Apple devices, and it promises a raft of new features, some of which could be useful to drivers. Of particular interest is Tap to Talk, which replaces text messaging with a recorded message that is sent to another user, who plays it back on their own device.

Apple CarPlay is set to launch in new vehicles later this year with the promise of a more seamless iPhone interface and Siri voice commands

We think CarPlay is a big deal. According to Apple, at least 15 automakers currently doing business in the United States have already signed on. That could make the system available in millions of vehicles soon. Meanwhile, Google’s Android is also moving into the automotive space.

If it works as advertised, features such as Tap to Talk could be a much better alternative to voice-to-text features currently used on many phones, if for no other reason than it eliminates the dreaded misinterpretations and inevitable spell check. What this means is that your actual voice is sent. This could reduce distraction when the user isn’t constantly checking the screen to see if an innocent message saying “I’ll be right back” is re-interpreted as “Put it in your hat” or worse. Of course, it may also encourage on-the-road communication.

It remains to be seen which iOS 8 features find their way into CarPlay and how that may shape mobile communication and infotainment. As one automaker representative said, “I see no reason to believe the new iOS 8 features wouldn’t be a part of the package.”

Current plans call for CarPlay to make its first appearance in the redesigned Volvo XC90 SUV and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, both due sometime late this year or in early 2015. Other carmakers said to be planning to offer it in the United States include BMW, Ferrari, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. 

Like it or not, what we do know is that phone use in cars is here to stay. So anything that reduces the risk of distraction is good. Naturally, we hope these emerging technologies don’t further compete with drivers’ task at hand.

We’ll reserve further judgment until we have a chance to try CarPlay for ourselves.

—Jim Travers

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