New Siri commands smarter, but not smart enough

Promise of easier ways to catch a ride falls short

Apple last week proudly rolled out some new capabilities for Siri, which will presumably take effect with iOS 10’s rollout on Wednesday (Sept. 7). The changes address one of my long-sought capabilities, which is to make getting a ride a lot easier. Alas, it demands more specificity than would be optimal.

Apple’s announcement promised transportation ease but didn’t quite deliver it. From Apple: “You can ask Siri to call a friend or colleague or book a ride to wherever you need to be. With SiriKit, developers are creating unique ways to let users interact with apps, making everyday tasks even easier.” But the commands are quite specific, as in “Get me a Lyft to SFO” or “Hey, Siri. Take me home in an UberX.” The ability to engage in similar interactions with MyTaxi, a European e-hailing app for cabs, is also promised.

This, however, sidesteps using Siri to make the best recommendations, which is what I hoped for. OK, so let’s say you’re in a city you’re unfamiliar with. You want a ride to the airport. You may not particularly care whether it’s Lyft, Uber, a taxi or something else. The goal is to have Siri see where the nearest car from any participating service is and to offer you those options, along with prices. Something such as, “The nearest vehicle is from Lyft — and it can get to you in five minutes — and the second nearest is a taxicab, which can get to you in 14 minutes. But Lyft will cost you $9 more. What would you like to do?”

The problem with dictating the service needed is that the consumer presumably doesn’t have enough information to make that decision. If Siri is truly trying to be the central point of data for consumers, this should be the way data is presented.

This reminds me of the frustrating way many retailers handle online store search. I have often needed a particular item. I say that I want to drive to a local store, and the system then forces me to choose a particular store. It then — more often than not — says the item isn’t in stock. I try another store and, again, no results are returned. Why can’t it offer to search all stores for the desired item and then report back the nearest store that has the item? Then let the consumer decide what to do.

That’s the challenge here. In a new location, I may not know which service has the most cars — and particularly the most cars in the section of town that I’m in. And I almost certainly will have no idea how the local pricing differs from each service. This is where Siri could excel.

It’s quite possible that business interests are blocking this — for example, Uber or Lyft might have demanded a system where they would be less likely to lose business to each other. By forcing consumers to identify the service as query limiter, it sharply reduces poaching. But that’s in the interests of the ride services, not consumers.

At this point, it is unclear whether the taxi option — only referenced here for Europe, though there are certainly U.S. taxi-hailing services such as Hailo, Curb and Juno — includes payment integration. The best part about Uber is the ability to get in and out of the vehicle with no payment effort. If coordinated by Siri, could hailed taxis be similarly convenient? If the cab accepts ApplePay — which an increasing number do — why not complete the payment prior to getting in the cab?

Come on, Siri. Let me say, “Get me to LaGuardia Airport” and then you do the work to let me make the best choice.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Apple

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Evan Schuman

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?