For years, automakers have been adding iPod and iPhone compatibility to their vehicles to appeal to the millions of consumers carrying Apple devices, but Mercedes-Benz is going one step further: using a home-grown Digital DriveStyle app, future Mercedes vehicles will be be able to access the full content of their iPhone via their in-vehicle display, and use Apple’s Siri voice recognition technology as part of hands-free communication system to send messages, speak commands, select music tracks, make appointments, change the radio, get news and information, and more. Mercedes says the system will debut in its new A-Class vehicles, but will be available across the company’s entire line.
So far, Apple’s Siri technology is exclusive to the Apple iPhone 4S. Mercedes’ announcement is the first time a third party has used the technology with other hardware.
The basic idea is that Siri’s speech recognition technology would replace hands-free voice recognition technology already available in many luxury vehicles; however, instead of having to speak preset commands in a particular order, Siri’s speech recognition would offer an interface using more-natural language.
Mercedes’ Digital DriveStyle App would will also provide voice-driven access to personalized Internet radio stations, navigation software from Garmin (including points of interest searches and a 3D map display), and a full range of social features for folks who can’t bear to be away from Facebook and/or Twitter during their commutes: users will be able to share music tracks, post comments, and compose tweets using their voice while driving.
The Mercedes in-vehicle information system will also be able to mirror the iPhone’s display: no more awkward suction cups or iPhones jammed into cupholders. Users will also be able to control the iPhone through controls in the center armrest.
Mercedes also plans to introduce roughly a dozen of its own iPhone apps during the next year, including a dedicated app store for apps designed for its in-car systems—two named examples are Morningstar Finance (which offers stock prices and financial information) along with Parking Finder. The apps will live (and be updated) on users’ phones and be transfered to the vehicle systems via Bluetooth when docked.
Mercedes hasn’t given out many specifics about the Siri or iPhone integration, but details are expected to emerge at the International Motor Show starting March 8 in Geneva, Switzerland. Mercedes’ A-Class vehicles will be the first to get the features, with the B-, C- and E-class vehicles getting on board later in 2012. But Siri and iPhone integration won’t be a high-end only option: Mercedes says the full range of features will be available even on the entry-level Audio 20 in-vehicle systems.