By now, you surely know that using your phone while driving is very frowned upon. If you’re spotted by the police using a hand-held device while driving you can find yourself heading home with a hefty fine, not to mention that driving distracted is a danger to yourself and everyone on the road.
Bluetooth has been available in cars for quite a while now, but it doesn’t have as much functionality as some would like. Serving as a hands-free way to take calls and send messages is one thing, but what about navigation and entertainment from your playlists or favourite apps?
Previously unveiled as “iOS in the Car” at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2013, Apple got people talking about the future of hands-free devices in the vehicle. Now, it has been formally released under the moniker “CarPlay” and it seems to have answered the prayers of tech-savvy commuters – namely those with iPhones.
Apple’s CarPlay aims to work seamlessly with the iPhone to enable full functionality without distracting from the task at hand: driving. The new system works through a Lightning cable with an iPhone 5 (or newer), running at least iOS 7.1. CarPlay takes the place of the vehicle’s built-in display and can provide directions from Apple Maps, make calls, send and receive messages and, of course, play music from iTunes playlists.
Using the already brilliant Siri AI system, Apple has developed voice control that is specifically designed for driving scenarios. Siri can be instructed to make calls, send texts, find places and open apps. The built-in CarPlay system will also utilize vehicle controls (knobs, buttons, touchscreens, etc.), along with re-imagined and approved apps. Podcasts, Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Stitcher are among those currently available.
You may have noticed that I said CarPlay takes the place of the “built-in” display. That’s because CarPlay is being rolled out as optional equipment on Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles this year, with the majority of manufacturers following suit in the future.
That’s all well and good, but what about your existing daily driver? There’s good news on that front as well as the car audio aftermarket is not far behind the Apple wave.
Pioneer has announced a firmware update for its five 2014 NEX in-dash multimedia receiver models (AVIC-8000NEX, AVIC-7000NEX, AVIC-6000NEX, AVIC 5000NEX and AVH-4000NEX). The update will bring CarPlay functionality to current and future Pioneer NEX multimedia LCD screens.
“Pioneer’s years of expertise integrating smartphone connectivity into the automotive environment has provided us the opportunity to be among the first to offer CarPlay to drivers,” said Ted Cardenas, Vice President of Marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA), Inc. “By providing an aftermarket option, Pioneer’s 2014 in-dash multimedia systems give many iPhone owners the ability to add CarPlay to their current vehicles.”
The firmware update is all you need to get started, but there are also plans for fully-integrated CarPlay products from Pioneer. Alpine also announced a product that will launch at the end of 2014. Whether they are planning a firmware update similar to Pioneer or produce new CarPlay hardware is yet to be confirmed.
The announcement of Apple and its system comes at a time when Android has dominated the in-car market. The truth is Android has been fully supported in the car in one way or another for quite some time now. It was actually Apple that had been left out.
Aftermarket audio standbys like Sony, Kenwood, Clarion and JVC have released similar multimedia receivers that give the user control via smartphone apps. These devices enable navigation, selection of playlists, radio stations and select apps through a mounted touchscreen phone. The systems can also take calls and send and receive messages, but only support voice control for Android users, leaving Apple consumers to use Siri in place of a prioritized system.
Not to be left out, Google has announced its counter to Apple’s CarPlay: Android Auto. Revealed at Google’s I/O 2014 conference, Android Auto aims to do exactly what CarPlay does, as well as support OEM manufacturers’ own apps, like vehicle diagnostics, roadside assistance and more. Android Auto will be offered for a wide range of vehicles that haven’t announced an Apple partnership, but it has been announced for those that have as well.
Hyundai, Honda and Volvo are among the few that aim to share both of the tech giants’ in-car endeavors. Ideally, having this crossover will eliminate your vehicle choice based on which smartphone you happen to have. Both Android Auto and CarPlay have similar architecture, so manufacturers that support both Apple and Google are aiming to make the choice as easy as connecting whichever you would like to use. If you have an Android device, simply connect via MicroUSB; if you have an iPhone, it will require a Lightning cable.
Whether you’re planning on buying a new car or a new head unit, the hands-free multimedia market is prepared for the next evolution of connectivity. There’s no doubt that additional automotive and audio manufacturers will jump on the CarPlay rocket as it takes off. If you’re a smartphone customer who is unsure about in-car connectivity, the future seems easier and brighter than ever.