The race to be your in-car tech provider is finally off and running. While the technology to integrate your driving experience has been around for some time, it has taken the big guys in the industry a while to fill the gap. Microsoft, Google, and Apple all have, or are currently developing, systems to integrate such functions as music, navigation, phone, and others, allowing you to control them via your car’s touch screen interface. It seems like a no-brainer, but one that might be harder than it appears. Apple’s CarPlay may finally be the one that changes everything.
CarPlay communicates with your car via a Lightning cable, allowing the car’s system to replicate your device’s screen. This is similar to the way Apple devices communicate with each other via AirPlay, with the difference that it requires your iPhone to be wired in to the car. CarPlay allows you to make calls, use your contacts list, listen to voicemails, have text messages read to you and speak your responses back to it. It is compatible with iPhone5, 5S, and 5C, requiring an upgrade to iOS7. Apple’s consistent visual environment and operating protocols are some of CarPlay’s biggest advantages. This ease-of-use is in stark contrast to the rest of the tech world, where each device–whether it be a phone, computer or in-car navigation system–has a completely different set of rules and procedures you need to remember every time you use it. This is especially true of in-car systems, where the interface is traditionally clunky and counter-intuitive, and far less friendly than the average person’s smartphone. While CarPlay is not exactly “iOS in the car,” it comes just short of that by offering a comfortable and familiar interactive experience. As with the entire family of Apple products, if you can use one you can use them all.
The tech giant has placed particular emphasis on improving CarPlay’s voice-recognition system, Siri, and also on optimizing it for use in driving-specific situations. This is the crux of their challenge–if it can get Siri to work well enough, CarPlay could really change everything about the future the in-car tech. Apple has added a number of acoustical models to improve Siri’s capacity to understand your speech in a car’s unique and often noisy environment. One of their biggest advantages is that most cars’ voice control systems are based on a set of prescribed commands, whereas Siri is a conversational interaction that understands natural speech. Last year they purchased Novauris, a British voice dictation company. While Apple is, as usual, not revealing the purpose of the acquisition, it is believed that the purchase was part of an effort to further improve Siri’s voice-recognition and comprehensive capabilities. Novauris claims that its technology recognizes complete phrases rather than understanding speech on a word by word basis.
Ferrari has officially announced that it will be the first car manufacturer to adopt CarPlay. It will allow you to interact with the car’s touch screen in exactly the same manner that you would use the iPhone itself. Volvo has said they will be including the system in their XC90 model next year, while Nissan and 14 other manufacturers will also be joining the fun in the new future. For iPhone users, using CarPlay is a seamless, familiar experience that could change everything about the way you drive. For users not-yet introduced to the way Apple does things, well, it’s pretty easy to learn.
By Peter Barreda