Apple Repositions CarPlay for the Automotive Instrument Panel

Apple’s CarPlay phone screen mirroring technology has been popular because it lets people use their phone’s interface through their cars’ infotainment touch screen display.

Indeed, the company says that 98 percent of new cars offer CarPlay and that 79 percent of new car buyers insist on it.

But the next generation of CarPlay, which should begin to appear on cars in late 2023, will take over functions currently managed by the carmakers’ own interfaces. The new CarPlay will be able to provide consistent content for multiple screens within the vehicle, while integration with the vehicle will allow users to do things like controlling the radio or change the climate directly through CarPlay.

It will also perform fundamental functions like displaying the speedometer and other instruments. Drivers will be able to personalize their driving experience by choosing different gauge cluster designs. Apple’s iPhone widgets, the tiny apps that provide a specific service, are employed to convey at-a-glance information such as Apple’s Weather and Music right on their car’s dashboard.

“Cars have changed a lot, with larger-size screens and more of them throughout the car,” observed Emily Schubert, senior manager, car experience engineering in her presentation of the new product. “This next generation of CarPlay provides content for all the driver’s screens, giving an experience that is unified and consistent. Deep integration with the car’s hardware lets you tune your car’s radio or change your temperature without ever leaving the CarPlay experience,” she stated.

Image courtesy of Apple

“To do this, your iPhone communicates with your vehicle’s real-time systems in an on-device, privacy-friendly way, showing all of your driving information, like speed, RPM, fuel level, temperature, and more,” Schubert continued. Drivers will have the choice of picking their own preferred styles and designs for these virtual instruments. “You will have instrument cluster options ranging from the modern to the traditional, that use different colors, dial treatments, backgrounds, and layouts to provide various looks and feels,” she said.

Carmakers working with Apple on next-generation CarPlay include:

  • Acura
  • Audi
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Infiniti
  • Jaguar
  • Land Rover
  • Lincoln
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Nissan
  • Polestar
  • Porsche
  • Renault
  • Volvo

Will these company really turn over their driver interface to Apple? “Five years ago, I would have said that no carmakers would do it, now I think it’s a fait de accomplit for this to happen and for automakers to aggressively pursue it,” said Mike Ramsey vice president and analyst for Gartner, Inc.’s Automotive and Smart Mobility.

“Resistance is futile,” he declared. “Google already is winning deals to turn screens into Android tablets. An Apple-like screen with real integrations would be very popular and likely help a carmaker differentiate its offerings. There still will be some holdouts, but I expect several carmakers will jump at this.”

Not everyone is thrilled at this prospect, as these Apple-powered displays look mighty distracting for drivers. “Kind of hate everything about tech companies bringing their regular method of development into the safety-critical domain,” tweeted Mahmood Hikmet, autonomous vehicles expert at Ohmio Automation after the announcement. “Do whatever the hell you want with a phone or an OS – but changing stuff around in a vehicle could lead to disastrous consequences.”

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