Tip o’ the Week #253 – Using Cortana in the Car


clip_image001There are many cool things that Cortana can do, which make using Windows Phone 8.1 a pleasure. Try asking the following, if you have Cortana enabled:

  • “Find the best nearby restaurants”, then
  • “Which are open now?” …
  • “Traffic to the 3rd one” …
  • “Drive there”

After each command, following commands will work in context with the results from the previous one – though it might take a bit of practice to figure out what you can say, and what is going to reliably be interpreted by Cortana. If you say something she doesn’t understand (maybe she’ll start playing some music or call some random number instead, mishearing “Drive” for “Play” or “Call”) then you’ll lose context and will need to start from the beginning.

One smart function, though, is when you want to use Cortana in your car. The specific UI will vary greatly depending on what car you have, but the important thing is that it may possible to use the car’s own functionality to get at Cortana’s smarts (which will be better than whatever is installed in the car, almost certainly).

Assuming you have Bluetooth handsfree functionality installed, you may have the option of pressing a steering-wheel button to interact with the phone – generally relying on the car systems to recognise names as you read them out, and searching a list of contacts either manually-entered or possibly sync’ed from your phone. Be careful not to faff about with your handset whilst driving – you may be breaking the law. Even in (some) parts of the US.

clip_image003If your car has the ability to see your phone’s directory or phone book, then you should see a contact show up in the list (when viewed in the car – it doesn’t actually appear as a contact on the phone itself), called Cortana.

You may be able to set favourites on your car so that when you press a button, it will dial a particular contact or number – or maybe your car’s Bluetooth setup has enough capability that it will be able to recognise a “call Cortana” voice command.

Even if the car has a less advanced system, it’s generally possible to have a short dial or some other kind of saved contact that’s manually added. If you create a contact in your car’s directory with the number 555-555-9876 and try to call it using the car’s UI, then you’ll see Cortana spring to life – in other words, the phone won’t actually dial that number, it will activate Cortana and will use the Bluetooth functionality in the car to be the mic and speakers for the phone. Don’t worry that it looks like a US phone number – it works on international handsets too.

If you type that number into your phone, then it will attempt to dial – but if you call that number using the car (either by adding a contact or just by entering the number) then you’ll see if the car wins Cortana’s favours or not

Comments (2)

  1. brianwatt says:

    I sometimes wonder which planet you people live on, or which, as yet unreleased, version of Cortana you’re using. All Cortana ever does on my PC or my phone is, open Bing and start searching for stuff. When I ask it to open my calendar, it searches Bing for ‘open calendar’, and when I ask it to Call Steve, it searches Bing for ‘call Steve.’

    Every article coming out of Microsoft says the same thing: Cortana is the most wonderful PA in the world, and every comment I have ever read from real-world users has the same theme: I can’t get Cortana to do anything, except open Bing.

    Not the cleverest AI I’ve ever seen, but before writing it off completely, perhaps I should wait to get the version you’ve got.

    1. EwanD says:

      Brian – This nearly 3-year-old article was talking about Cortana on Windows Phone;
      but today when using the off-the-shelf Cortana app on Samsung S8, both “open calendar” and “call Steve” do what you’d expect…

      Ditto, “open calendar” on Cortana for Win10 PC, she asks what app I want to use (Outlook or the Calendar app)…

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