CarPlay, Apple’s favourite way to take over your infotainment system, wants to spread its influence over every screen your car has (or will have). All hail the unified Cupertino interface!
We’re not sure how automakers are going to react, much less be cooperative, about this one. However, we can all agree that smartphone integration solutions such as CarPlay and Android Auto have spurred a positive change in in-car user interfaces and software design from factory.
Not being content with that single screen and a superficial smartphone-powered overlay either over Bluetooth or USB, Apple sees a future where every car might potentially have an identical interface to that of your iPhone/iPad. That of iOS - Apple’s interface.
One OS Fits All?
At least, that’s the vision presented at the tech giant’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that happened earlier this week. The single teaser image, shown on a mock vehicle interior that has a full-width display across the dashboard in addition to a ‘secondary’ infotainment screen below, was part of a feature showcase of the upcoming iOS 16 operating system that’s due to hit supported Apple devices this fall season.
As the current version of CarPlay might grant a user control over certain apps already installed on the connected device such as Spotify for music or Waze for navigation, this newest in-development version of a complete reimagining of how deeply this software integration/takeover could go.
Drivers and passengers alike will be able to see and interact with every on-screen function through Apple’s interface, from the gauge cluster (speedometer and tachometer) to climate control functions to other vehicle telematics.
Plug & Play
Presumably, all this processing and hardware load is expected to be handled by the iPhone itself, which can already get pretty strained (and very warm) when asked to perform multiple CarPlay tasks in the present day while also being charged up (it’s often worse when its charging wirelessly). That said, perhaps this is something being developed to work hand in hand with the next generation of Apple silicon.
In the mobile operating system space, rival Google has been taking a different approach through its Android Automotive OS initiative by working directly with automakers to create their own in-car software using Android’s open source foundation much like the many distributions that exist of Linux.
Over the course of this development cycle, the automaker has free reign to pretty much sculpt the in-vehicle interface to its liking while their Google partners can assist in the integration of cloud services and app-mirroring support such as that found in Android Auto today.
Audi and most obviously Volvo have been the most prominent automakers supporting this offer of partnership but this essentially bridges the creator/vendor disparity that exists in the aftermarket space where AOSP is being used to underpin various infotainment systems without direct support. The touchscreen interface in the older (FC) Honda Civic, for example, uses a forked version of Android and so does the newest Honda City, Accord, and (FE) Civic.
Again, we’ll have to wait and see what (if anything) will come of this announcement as this level of integration will require much more consent and cooperation from the automaker to realise. Apple, for its part, has confirmed that vehicle announcements for this more immersive CarPlay experience will be coming in late 2023.