Amid a flurry of connected-auto news, NPR announced today that its mobile news application will now connect with Ford's SYNC AppLink.
What does that mean? We'll, it means in certain Ford vehicles you will be able to control the NPR News app using your voice. It means you don't have to reach for the dial or look at your smartphone, instead you can just ask the app to, for example, play WNYC or play Car Talk. And, as is the case with the current NPR News app for iPhones and Androids, all NPR programs are available on-demand.
The news came in conjunction with Ford's announcement that it was expanding the number of apps that worked with its system. And, as USA Today reported a few days ago, it will also be followed by announcements about new "in-car infotainment" from Mercedes-Benz and Kia, which will reveal the first apps to work with their cars during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The paper adds:
"As revolutions go, this one started fitfully with just a handful of apps. Drivers can activate the car's controls to make dinner reservations through Toyota's Entune system or use the car's voice-command system to select music over Ford Sync. But the number of available apps is expected to multiply to dozens or perhaps hundreds over the next few years, just as they proliferated for Apple's iPhone or Google's Android smartphones.
"'It's much more about extending the digital lifestyle to the vehicle,' says Thilo Koslowski, automotive practice leader for Gartner, a research and consulting company. The car becomes 'the ultimate mobile device.'"
As far as the NPR app, in a press release CEO Gary Knell says this advancement is "helping to usher in a new era of radio listening..." According to an Arbitron & Edison study cited in the press release, the time people spent listening to online radio jumped 49 percent in the last three years.
All that aside, we think the coolest thing is that Carl Kasell helps you navigate through the app.
If you still want to know more, NPR put together an explainer video that features Audie Cornish and Scott Simon:
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And we also have some news this morning involving cars and this network. Ford Motor Company and NPR have announced a deal that will allow drivers to get NPR programming directly in their car - not through the radio but from a voice-activated smartphone app. And NPR's Sonari Glinton has more.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Increasingly with the car companies it's the battle of the apps. Your Toyota Camry can get you a table at your favorite restaurant. And now you can order up Robert Siegel from the comfort of your car. Ford and NPR have joined together to essentially make the NPR app that's available on smartphones available in your car.
GARY KNELL: This will have a set of choices for the consumer, so they will be able to listen to programs that they love, topics that they love.
GLINTON: Gary Knell is NPR's CEO. So if listeners are interested in, say, business or cars...
KNELL: They can break those down and listen to the last several reports coming from National Public Radio. And most importantly, they will be able to hear stations. And they will be able to hear local programs.
GLINTON: This is the first time a major news organization and car company have collaborated on a car app. The app will work exclusively through Ford's SYNC AppLink system using voice controls.
David Champion is with Consumer Reports. He's been a critic of car infotainment systems. Champion says even with voice controls, it's hard for drivers not to become distracted.
DAVID CHAMPION: The problem with voice recognition is if you've got kids in the car and you start talking to the car, they start talking to the car as well, and then trying to get your commands understood is somewhat difficult.
GLINTON: Executives for both Ford and NPR say safety is their first concern. They also say it's better to have the new technology than not, because it is a step forward. Or you could just use your radio.
Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.