Ever want to control a car the way Batman or the Knight Rider did? Apple’s new CarPlay brings the fantasy of talking to a computer in a car’s dashboard closer to reality. Sorry KITT, talk to Siri.
The new CarPlay, which Apple unveiled Monday at the Geneva International Motor Show, is the company’s way to take over the dashboard of your car using an iPhone and enable drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. It could help reduce the number of drivers texting or reading emails while driving.
Apple took its iOS in the Car concept unveiled last June and re-branded it as CarPlay. (The name is clearly a branding reference to AirPlay, the company’s systems for streaming content from Apple devices to TVs.) They then demonstrated the product in Geneva along with Volvo, Mercedes and Ferrari.
CarPlay integrates a car’s built-in display with several Apple technologies, including Siri, Apple Maps and iTunes, and the company’s usual focus on ease of use. Users can make calls, get directions or maps, listen to music, check their calendar and listen to messages (audio and text) with a word or a touch while driving. CarPlay is controlled by a button on the steering wheel in addition to other built-in interfaces in the car, such as a touchscreen in the vehicle. The full integration with iPhones should enable Apple to distance itself from other computer companies’ efforts in the automotive arena, such as Google’s Open Automotive Alliance (GOOG) introduced last month and Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive (MSFT), which is still not in wide use after many years.
Through CarPlay and Siri, drivers will be able to hear text and audio messages, play music apps, get directions and, of course, make calls while staying focused on the road. Apple claims that CarPlay brings the fantasy of dictating and sending text messages with both hands on the wheel closer to reality as well (hopefully, better than Siri did in the past).
The capabilities in most Apple apps should be the same through CarPlay. For example, contacts that can be accessed now through Siri will be available through the car interface. Traffic and maps will be real-time, as opposed to most in-car systems where directional information is not always current, particularly in newly developed areas. CarPlay will also supports other non-Apple apps on your iPhone. The list Apple provided includes Podcasts, Beats Radio, iHeart Radio, Spotify and Stitcher.
CarPlay will on be available on select new cars in 2014, but the rollout plans beyond that are extensive. Volvo, Ferrari and Mercedes are the initial carmakers so they were spotlighted in Apple’s Geneva demonstrations. However, other car manufacturers already working with Apple include BMW, Citroën, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Suburu, Suzuki and Toyota. The inclusive line-up puts Apple ahead of other companies working with specific car companies.
CarPlay will work with Lightning-enabled iPhone including models of iPhone 5. There is no work yet on commercial vehicles and other specifics. CarPlay will be added to iPhones through a system update later this year. So then, Apple CarPlay brings fantasy closer to reality for iPhone 5 owners, provided they also buy a new Mercedes, Ferrari or Volvo.
By Dyanne Weiss
San Jose Mercury News