The features we enjoy on our smartphones are migrating at increasing pace into our cars. But is putting a video chat program in an automobile’s infotainment system really a good idea?
Volvo seems to think so, which (given its well-earned reputation) already tells you something about the safety proposition. Together with Microsoft, the Swedish automaker has announced the industry-first integration of Skype for Business into its flagship 90 Series of luxury automobiles.
“We’ve all been there. Sitting in the car trying to join a conference call. You either fumble with or drop your phone while trying to connect or you forget the long pin code to join. It’s not the best way to start an important call in the car,” said Volvo’s connectivity guru Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz. “On top of all that your attention is not where it should be – on the road. With the addition of Skype for Business all that goes away.”
The feature will allow occupants in the S90, V90, and XC90 to view details of upcoming conference calls on the center console display, join in with a single touch, and even record voice memos for later.
Though exact details were not disclosed, the app appears to be limited to voice calls – no video. Though video conferencing is the basis on which Skype was built, its exclusion from the in-car version would ostensibly mitigate the potential distraction factor and make it safer to operate from behind the wheel. Safer, at any rate, than messing with your phone while driving.
Along with Skype for Business integration, Volvo is also looking into integrating the Cortana “digital personal assistant” into its cars in the future. Similar to Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri platforms, Volvo hopes to use Microsoft’s artificial-intelligence system to offer enhanced voice recognition and “contextual insights to support peoples’ daily lives by actively predicting their needs.”
Update: Volvo confirmed via correspondence with Carscoops that “video conferencing will not be supported” through the Skype interface in its cars.