Could MINI to be Among First to Integrate Apple’s “Eyes Free”?

We learned today at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s conference that the company is working with BMW and a handful of other manufacturers to integrate Siri into select voice control systems. The idea simply integrates the technology into a vehicle’s voice command button on your steering wheel. Not just passing Siri through Bluetooth but actually defining a button that directly connects to the App via an API. After pressing the button you’ll be able to ask Siri questions without taking your eyes off the road. What about MINI? Typically BMW and MINI work from the same technology resources and platforms so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this technology come to the MINI as well.

The idea behind Eyes Free is to minimize distractions. Once in Eyes Free mode, your iOS device’s screen won’t light up. With the Eyes Free feature, ask Siri to call people, select and play music, hear and compose text messages, use Maps and get directions, read your notifications, find calendar information, add reminders, and more. Obviously we can look for BMW and MINI to integrate it into future vehicles. However the big question of course is, will it be available for those of us with BMWs and MINIs that have bluetooth and voice command already?

  • That’s the big question – I hoped you had the big answer 😉

  • Agre


    not everyone is fanboy of apple…

    • Agre, I would say that most of the people that use Apple products aren’t “fanboys” they are simply users.  However I will say that Apple’s interfaces often inspire those users which is why they are often so passionate.  I am often inspired by Apple’s products but that doesn’t mean I don’t find them perfect and wish I had more control at times.  A “fanboy” is one with a completely one-sided view unable to see fault with what they love.  In response to your post, if you want better in-car integration for  Android devices, maybe you should write Google.  There are many reasons why many manufacturers have iPhone/iPod integration and not Google and it comes down to Apple makes it easy while the Android market does not.  Apple provides APIs to implement in-car solutions.  Apple creates hardware which is readily upgradeable to the latest software by a user and has a significantly higher percentage of users on the latest software.  Apple has standardized the bluetooth and physical dock connector interface whereas different Android phones have different OS, possibly different drivers and definitely different connectors.  Do Google and Microsoft smart phones have siri-like Digital Personal Assistants? Yes, they do but they are not as heavily advertised, as widely used or as consistent and easily integrated.  If you doubt me, this issue has been discussed by the great hosts at White Roof Radio more than once but I would suggest you listening to the most recent WRR Woofcast episode 417 with the interview from Rob Pasaro, Head of the BMW App Center Mountain View as he describes Android support around 31min into the podcast.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      We’ve been down this road a bunch of times- its not that BMW/MINI doesn’t want to support Android. It is because Android is not standardized which makes it very difficult to do- are you going to only support one Droid handset and leave the rest out? No because the cost of investment is significant and the turn around on handsets is short. 

      That is why iOS solutions make more sense long term. The difference in App stores is pure evidence of that as well as aftermarket hardware. When Android standardizes more more third parties will support it in cars. 

  • Ebusch

    Agre, Apple created this infrastructure… When Android does, maybe MINI will integrate with it.

  • Wretch

    bring it on!

    • Toslvs

      The eyes are on the road but where’s the brain?

  • John

    The term Fanboy being your dig of course. Apparently BMW feels that the Android fanboys are fewer in numbers and that working with both platforms would be a pain. Oh, let’s not forget this all about SIRI which is something Android does not have. Not even close.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I know this stuff is coming, but it’s really raw right now. I don’t find Siri that usefull for more than “Where’s the closest UPS store?” Most of the time, the technology misinterprets what I’m looking for and lists people from my address book that have names that are sligtly related to some of the sounds that the phone tried to interpret.

    There have been a lot of articles about integration of technologies into cars, and we have some difficult to reconcile trends. Branding and “walled garden” marketing approaches means that solutions aren’t universal, nor are they standardized (Apple vs Android is one example, and just try to go from one touch screen/voice interface from one car and into another). This means that while we get a buch of functions available, the user-interface is so varied that the end result is a lot of confusion and a small percentage of people actually using the full range of options available.

    The other trend is that the current head of NTHSA is on the war-path AGAINST feature creap in cars and any other source of distraction. Personally, I think he’s lose the battle, as just too many people use technologies while driving. Last time we criminalized common behaviour was the Prohibition, and that wasn’t much of a success…..

    I’d love to see some interface standardization as a way to combat driver confustion and distraction. But I don’t think the car manufacturers will go for it unless forced.

    Oh well….. 

    • Dr Obnxs, I think one of the reasons why Eyes Free is so important is exactly the argument you make regarding reconciling different products and features with varied user-interfaces.  Most people forgot the ins and the outs of their car stereo the moment the post-sale sales-adviser walk-around is completed.  Cars and their infotainment systems change with each generation as you mention and I would say there is a pattern of people not have allegiance and the desire to learn their current or even next car’s infotainment system.  However on the flip side, most people say they cannot live without their smart phone and that they know it very well.  Not only that, most users on one smart phone platform stay on that platform as they often have time (in the form of learning) and money invested.  So that is where I think the argument of user confusion and functions is flawed regarding phones and car use.  Most people are in love with their smart phones and if they have the ability to operate those with their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, they are going to be that more likely to do so because they are already familiar and prefer to use their phone than they do their car stereo and certain most navigation and infotainment systems.

  • Dr Obnxs

    My guess is it won’t be backwards compatible. When’s the last time a new feature for a head unit/nav system/ whatever has been upgradable to past cars… I can’t think of a single one… When it comes out, if you want it you’ll have to buy a new car.


    • Dr Obnxs, In regards to how upgradable is MINI Connected, I can’t answer as to the limitations.  However I can tell you MINI Connected is certainly upgradable and that it is probably much more likely that MINI Connected will be upgraded before any hard-coded interior buttons such as on the steering wheel are reprogrammed.  Similar to how some of Ford’s Sync or MyTouch infotainment systems can be upgraded at the dealership or by the user via USB, MINI Connected can be updated themselves by the user by USB.  Check it out: 

  • Rocketboy_X

    Oh, like that thing that Ford and Microsoft does?

    • You mean like the thing that they don’t do and are in line to integrate just like BMW? No Ford and Mercedes dont have this tech – no one does because Apple hasnt released it. Of course Siri already works through Bluetooth on many modern systems (including MINI). This new method would map a hardware button (the voice control on most cars) to the feature.

      • Rocketboy_X

        So Ford Sync doesn’t do calls, navigation, poi, streaming media, messaging etc, and it’s not controlled by voice commands? How confusing.

        Or are you talking about the specific apple branded technology that is specifically named Siri?

        Or are you talking about the specific hard button on the steering wheel, which is also part of Ford Sync (at least at one time, I’m just so confused now).

        • Obviously you’re not reading the story.

        • Rocketboy_X

          Obviously I don’t just regurgitate press releases at the fear of displeasing official MINI contacts.

        • Good of you to change topics. And fyi this isn’t a press release. Automakers won’t be releasing this along with their official releases for awhile.

        • Rocketboy_X

          Well, it was as valid of a reply as your “Obviously you’re not reading the story.”.  And sorry, it wasn’t specifically an official “press release”, but something that was said during a “press event”.  I can see how they are totally different.  Sorry for taking such a tone, but I’m just echoing your initial response.

        • I don’t think you had any need to apologize [for simply trying to clarify your original statement]…

        • Rocketboy_X

          Nice of you to re-write what you posted… “Obviously you’re not reading the story.” is what you said before you edited it.

      • Gabe, I may need to correct you regarding nobody having this technology.  In February Mercedes announced that they were to integrate Siri into the headunit of the new A-class.  I will admit this is a matter of semantics as the A-class system announced in February appears to not be as simple as “Eyes Free” but it is the A-class headunit directly controlling Siri.  Check it out: and

        • It’s not the same tech as it doesn’t rely on the API that will be coming out later this year. Basically it’s a modified voice control command but nothing specific from the phone.

        • Gabe, the Mercedes technology obviously came out before Eyes Free APIs that Apple announced at WWDC so I am not claiming it is the same at all but that it was the first Siri car integration which you asserted nobody else had. The Mercedes system allows control of Siri not through a button on the steering wheel but through the COMAND system, and around 53 sec into the YouTube video you can clearly see Siri initiated by the COMAND interface and hear Siri respond.  This is not the standard Mercedes voice recognition technology as you seem to imply.  Is it Eyes Free? No.  Does it use a custom API and did Apple help with its integration?  I don’t think either you or I could say for sure although the International Business Times states that it is the first time Apple allowed Siri Integration outside the iPhone 4S strongly implying this was an early collaboration.

  • Jay

    If anything I think we will at least see it backwards compatible on MINIs with MINI Connected. They don’t add a button, really, it’s just that “speak” button that is already there. I don’t see how that can be so hard to implement. 

    • I just responded to Dr Obnxs regarding how upgradeable MINI Connected is and I agree the button is just a button and it will be interesting if MINI Connected will be upgraded to take advantage of “Eyes Free”.

  • There is a reason why this is called “Eyes Free” and it’s not called the “Siri Button”.  For those people that seem to miss part of the point: “Eyes Free” is an API which Apple is making available to further their already provided APIs with accessory manufacturers including car manufacturers.  If you watch the WWDC keynote, the “Eyes Free” feature seems to take a page from the new “Do Not Disturb” feature so that when a phone is plugged into a head unit that supports “Eyes Free” the phone should no longer make any audible or visual cues when using Siri thus eliminating a visual distraction.  Gabe already mentions it is possible to use Siri with Bluetooth on current MINIs but I believe it needs to be initiated by activating Siri on the phone itself, thus taking the drivers hands off the wheel.  It will be interesting to see if “Eyes Free” can completely eliminate all visual or auditory notifications from appearing on the phone to truly make it “Eyes Free”.  That is something that as Dr. Obnxs rightfully states is the goal of NHTSA.  I could see other manufacturers that don’t have any voice-recognition systems and only a simple Bluetooth option to benefit more from this than BMW, but there is no doubt that even with MINI Connected, having a quick button to ask Siri to check a sports score is something people will use.  “Eyes Free” is more than just Siri in your car; that already exists as Gabe points out. This furthers the goal of keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

  • chad

    i am sure this is cool for 99% of the drivers out. i know this is news, but this is not what cars are about (for me). i am not looking for more gadgets in the car. 

    • Jon

      Wow; great call, Chad. I like your thinking.

  • jbkONE

    I can’t help but think that using SIRI in the car amounts to the same thing as having a bluetooth telephone conversation: your mind is elsewhere.  Studies show it’s not holding the phone that’s distracting, it’s the act of having a conversation with someone who’s not there.  I bet studies would also show, were they done, using a device and hoping it got your sentence correct would take at least as much attention as calling.  I’m not sure this is a good idea.  What they should implement is a feature where if the GPS senses you’re moving over 10mph, it shuts down.

  • Hopefully it is something they can add to the current connected setup.  My question is how will it override the current voice commands?  Will it only work in plugin mode?  If you don’t have Mini connected nav, and connected is upgraded with eyes free will this disable your iPhone screen completely?  Will I be able to view apple maps or my Garmin app?

    Currently I can only hear my Garmin turn by turn nav if im in plugin mode.  If I listen to sirius forget about it.  Siri comes through now but the connected thinks its a phone call.  I know its a dream but I wish you could just use airplay to throw a nav app to the screen. 

  • SK

    this already happens on my 2009