GM's voice-activated Android system converts incoming SMS text messages and Facebook updates from text to synthetic speech with the app. The messages are then sent via Bluetooth to the car's speakers. Drivers can respond by voice through the in-vehicle microphone by selecting among a list of defined messages, such as "Yes," "No," and "Driving." It is also possible for the system to memorize custom messages, which are transcribed into text or posted as audio clips on Facebook, GM said. For Facebook updates, the driver can say "Like" to like a friend's update.
For text messages, the "Call Back" voice command automatically dials the phone number associated with the incoming message. It's also possible to set an automatic reply to all incoming messages, such as: "I'm on the road until 3 p.m. and can get back to you then."
The system will require a mobile phone running Android 2.2 or higher, a GM vehicle with built-in Bluetooth, or a vehicle equipped with a new OnStar system when it becomes commercially available. GM said it's planning the full launch for later in the first half of 2011 through the Android Market, while pricing has yet to be disclosed.
The voice-activated systems Ford and GM are developing remain limited compared to the functionality that PC and even mobile phone-based applications offer, of course. But in an area long-dominated by luxury-car brands such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, and Lexus, it is likely that Ford's and GM's upcoming in-car technologies will set the bar higher for in-car office apps that could also be available for an affordable price.