Apple's CarPlay turns your car into an iPhone

06 Mar 2014

ITEM: Apple is finally chasing the connected-car market with a new iOS7 update for car dashboards.

It’s called CarPlay, and it has some heavy backing from car manufacturers. Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo unveiled CarPlay for their customers at this week’s Geneva Motor Show, and another 13 car-makers (BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota) will be rolling out CarPlay later this year.

CarPlay essentially allows iPhone users to integrate their devices into the dashboard interface to make calls, use Maps or listen to music. From the press release:

Users can easily control CarPlay from the car’s native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri without distraction. […]

Once iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri helps you easily access your contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails. When incoming messages or notifications arrive, Siri provides an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call.

CarPlay also support iTunes Radio, as well as third-party music services like Spotify.

Apple arguably couldn’t have timed CarPlay better at a time when the telecoms industry is becoming increasingly interested in the Internet Of Things (IoT) – one of those “things:” being automobiles. Indeed, at last week’s Mobile World Congress, connected cars were a recurring theme. The GSM Association’s Connected City booth featured several connected car demos, while Ford unveiled its latest high-tech Ford Focus on its stand.

In the conference auditorium, Stephen Odell, Ford’s EVP and president of EMEA, said during his keynote that connectivity is now a key feature that new car buyers take into account, and that by 2020, over 80% of new cars will offer connected functionality.

And by that time, “connected functionality” will means “vehicles that are constantly connected to their surroundings” via sensors, he said.

“There are many untapped opportunities here for mobile to play a role in this – such as enabling cars to share their data with each other and with transportation infrastructure in real time,” Odell said.

Meanwhile, Caroline Gabriel of Rethink Research sums up some other connected-car activity at MWC:

Among the connected car highlights in Barcelona the preceding week were an optimized version of Qualcomm's Gobi chip, bringing LTE-Advanced Category 6 to cars; a demonstration of in-car television by US auto vendor Tesla and Telefonica; and a demonstration of the Connected Car Consortium's MirrorLink platform, a device-agnostic way to connect handsets to cars, by PSA Peugeot Citroen. Google is looking to create a full car-centered Android ecosystem with its Open Automotive Alliance, basically a version of the Open Handset Alliance for this sector. In January, it unveiled the initiative and announced GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia as launch partners.

So yeah, Apple seems to have timed its connected-car play just about right – depending on whether you think it should pioneer the field or wait until there’s an actual market for it.

That said, it’s only fair to point out that this is Apple’s second attempt to connect iPhones to in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. Its first try, Siri Hands Free, never really got out of the parking lot (so to speak).

BONUS TRACK: How does CarPlay compare to other in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems? Wired’s Autopia has a chart for you to look at.

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