Apple, You Can Infotain Our Cars

05 March 2014

Apple is set to extend its influence into the automobile cockpit having announced that Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will demonstrate CarPlay, an extension to the iOS7 operating system, at the Geneva International Motor Show this week.

CarPlay is a way to use the Apple iPhone smartphone as an infotainment hub within the car including using the car's native control interface and interacting with Siri, the iPhones' talking and listening audio interface. Apple will, no doubt, face competition in the cockpit from Google and Android, as well as from more mudane Linux, but Microsoft's Windows operating system, which has long been present in Ford's Sync infotainment system seems to be under pressure.

Besides the three leading marques able to demo CarPlay this week, Apple said that most of the world's leading automobile makers are signed up to introduce CarPlay. These include: BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugot Citroen, Suburu, Suzuki and Toyota.

Apple describes CarPlay as a safe way to use the iPhone in the car allowing users to make calls, use global positioning by satellite and maps, listen to music and access messages.

At present CarPlay cannot be used to control the automobile but many infotainment functions are likely to move to the BYOD (bring your own device) sphere and there could yet be a further merging of control as smartphones are used to control functions remotely in the home and potentially in the car.

Most high-end car makers have been introducing the means to extend functionality into smartphones but at the same time it is also necessary that most of the applications are disabled to prevent to make sure the driver is not distracted or tempted to use the device inappropriately while driving.

CarPlay is available to iPhone users as an update to iOS7 and works with Lightning-enabled iPhones including the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 5c. Once it is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri provides access to contacts and call and voicemail functions. 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 works with the Maps software to anticipate destinations based on recent trips and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and estimated time of arrival updates. Siri can provide turn-by-turn directions along with mapping information that appears on the car's larger built-in display. And CarPlay provides drivers with access to music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes digital radio. CarPlay also supports third-party applications Spotify and iHeartRadio.

"CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car," said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, in a statement. "iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction. We have an amazing lineup of auto partners rolling out CarPlay, and we’re thrilled it will make its debut this week in Geneva."

Apple said CarPlay will be available in select cars shipping in 2014 but did not indicate whether the scheme could be extended to the iPad.

Meanwhile Ford's inclusion in the list of CarPlay adopters has added to speculation that it could be in the process of dropping Microsoft as the operating system provider for its own Sync in-car infotainment system. A Bloomberg report in February said that Ford was swapping Microsoft's Windows out in favor of QNX from BlackBerry. However, other reports have Ford denying this and saying that it is in the process of selecting a supplier for its underlying software foundation for Sync 3, the third generation of its infotainment system.

Related links and articles:

Bloomberg report

News articles:

Intel Partners with Jaguar Land Rover on Infotainment

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