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    'Eyes Free' - Apple and the Automakers get “Siri-ous” about Safety

    A big problem on the roads today is driver distraction caused by motorists using a phone or mobile device while behind the wheel. There seems to be two approaches to this problem: pass laws that prohibit this behavior or develop technology that allows drivers to use their mobile devices and keep their attention focused on the road. Automobile manufacturers have been pursuing the latter, integrating increasingly sophisticated “hands free” technology into their vehicles that allow drivers to make calls, send messages and access the internet without having to divert their attention from the road.

    'Hands Free' Tech gives way to 'Eyes Free' Tech.

    A major development in this area was announced Monday at the annual WWDC conference, when Apple unveiled its 'Eyes Free' vehicle integration system that allows drivers to access Apple's Siri with the tap of button on the steering wheel.

    The 'Eyes Free' system is being described by Apple and auto manufactures as a safety device. By using 'Eyes Free', drivers will be able to utilize Siri's voice control features to access their mobile iOS devices, allowing them to keep their hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, hopefully minimizing driver distraction. In addition to phone calls, the system also simplifies the way drivers access their GPS systems or select a radio station.

    One big difference between Apple’s 'Eyes Free' and other hand free systems is that 'Eyes Free' works using a driver’s iPhone or iPad rather than relying on a system that’s built into the automobile.

    Of course, being an Apple product, the 'Eyes Free' button will only operate using an iPhone or other Apple device equipped with Siri.

    Several Automobile Manufacturers are already onboard.

    A surprising number of automobile manufacturers have already committed to integrating the 'Eyes Free' system into their 2014 models. These include Audi, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota. The 2013 Cadillac XTS already incorporates some basic Siri software in GM’s new infotainment system called CUE (Cadillac User Experience). However, unlike 'Eyes Free' which utilizes cloud technology, CUE is a self contained system.

    Three major manufacturers – Ford, Kia and Hyundai are passing on the Apple system in favor of their current hands free systems, which rely on Microsoft technologies.

    The Real Test Will Be Out On the Road.

    While transportation safety advocates approve any effort to make the roads safer, they are concerned that 'Eyes Free' and other similar technologies may still result in potentially dangerous driver distraction.  Regulations have focused on hand held devices, but there are studies that suggest hands free systems may pose a similar problem.

    The real test of Apple’s new 'Eyes Free' system will be out on the roads when drivers get a chance to use it. Apple isn’t the first company to come out with hands free – or eyes free – technology. But given Apple’s knack for producing gadgets that the public loves and their solid reputation for making their devices as user friendly as possible, there’s no reason to think they won’t succeed in this endeavor, as well.  In addition to making the roads safer, it could also provide whole new experience for drivers who like to use their mobile devices inside their cars.

     'Eyes Free' has the possibility to make driving a whole lot more safe – and a whole lot more fun.

    About Author:
    Jacob Lake is an internet content specialist with ScreenTek, a Houston, TX based company that specializes in providing OEM replacement laptop and iPad digitizer screens.   

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