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Mercedes Benz working Apple’s Siri into its cars

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple has found a lot of success in adding the voice-activated personal assistant software Siri to its iPhone 4S. Apparently, other companies are taking notice.

At the Mobile World Congress this weekend in Barcelona, Spain, Mercedes Benz rolled out plans to integrate Siri into its “Drive Kit Plus” program. This will essentially allow drivers to access their iPhone apps using only their voices while driving.

The story comes from the International Business Times. Mercedes Benz, the publication reports, already has a software program that projects the iPhone screen onto an in-car system to allow users to make use of their smartphones without having to divert their attention from driving. Drive Kit Plus interacts with the existing systems to allow a hands-free method of accessing lots of different iPhone systems while driving, like music, text messaging and email. Drivers can even send updates to Facebook and Twitter with Siri’s help.

On the iPhone 4S, Siri also is capable of handling navigation commands, bringing up directions to specific places when asked questions as well as when given instructions. It’s not hard to see how well the technology behind Siri can translate into being used in a car, and it sounds like hands-free navigation will be one of the biggest selling points for Siri and Drive Kit Plus.

The Mercedes Benz-Apple partnership marks the first time Apple has allowed Siri to control non-iPhone systems, the International Business Times reports, so it sounds like the software’s integration in Mercedes Benz cars’ systems will be pretty deep. It makes sense that Apple is extending the coolness factor of Siri; already, it represents some cutting-edge voice recognition technology. Siri was probably the major reason that the iPhone 4S sold in record quantities when it was released last year. By finding partnerships that extend Siri to new platforms and show off its power, Apple further solidifies the brand and deepens the perception that in order to get Siri and its capabilities, customers need to buy Apple products.

Apple isn’t going to be careless with how it makes Siri available to users and to other platforms, but its Mercedes Benz partnership certainly suggests that we could see Siri showing up in other devices and products. That could potentially be a very cool development: while Siri isn’t quite smart enough to help drivers in emergencies and replace human-based services like OnStar, it should offer a lot of versatility to drivers. Hopefully Apple will find other interesting platforms to spread its voice recognition technology.