Chevrolet Launches MyLink Infotainment System on Volt, Equinox

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Tonight, Chevrolet unveiled its new Chevy MyLink in-car infotainment package, which lets drivers control integrated online services like Pandora internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio using either touch-screen menu options or voice commands to control smart phones via Bluetooth connectivity.

While Chevrolet has provided integration for portable media devices like Apple iPods in some models since 2006, as well as hands-free calling via Bluetooth, MyLink adds audio streaming and wireless control of smart phones.

The 7-inch color touch-screen display not only lets the driver control infotainment devices and other vehicle functions--like climate control--but also shows album-cover art via Gracenote, specific background graphic for each channel offered by the Sirius Satellite Radio, and other associated graphics.

Smart phones on wheels

GM's vice president for global product engineering, Karl Stracke, called Chevrolet MyLink "the next logical step for in-vehicle connectivity." It allows the car to become a "smart phone on wheels," in the words of the press release, by utilizing the mobile broadband capability of 3G smart phones.

The services include:

  • Hands-free control of infotainment and vehicle climate controls, powered by Nuance
  • Pandora internet radio, which provides personalized radio stations based on a user's favorite artists, songs, or genres; purchase songs; and rate songs "up" or "down"
  • Stitcher SmartRadio, which lets users build a personalized listening experience from thousands of audio choices
  • Gracenote music identification, which provides artist names, music genre, and album art
  • Flash-memory capability added to in-car USB connections, so users can bring their own media storage
  • MyLink software upgrades that users can download online and transfer to the vehicle

Not all smart phone apps can be used with MyLink. Chevrolet first has to validate them to ensure they are safe to use while a vehicle is in motion. Chevrolet will set up its own app store, from which MyLink users can download the approved apps, for free.

OnStar engineer demonstrates OnStar MyLink for mobile phone applications.

OnStar engineer demonstrates OnStar MyLink for mobile phone applications.

Whither Onstar?

With the MyLink system offering voice control of smart phone apps, drivers will now be able to get turn-by-turn driving directions from online services like Google Maps.

That is, in effect, a fully automated replacement for the Onstar "blue button" that calls a human advisor, who then downloads turn-by-turn instructions into the vehicle's navigation or audio system.

Asked how Onstar and MyLink interacted or conflicted, GM head of infotainment engineering Micky Bly noted that Onstar had 15 years of interpreting and understanding spoken commands.

It worked with Nuance, he said, to provide what GM considers to be much better and more reliable voice identification than "the other guys" who provide similar services with some of the same partners.

That, clearly, was a reference to Ford's much-lauded Sync system, now expanded for 2011 into the MyFordTouch system that also allows voice and touch-screen control of audio, entertainment devices, phone calls, and vehicle systems.

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