Why the new Apple CarPlay sets up a showdown with carmakers

When Apple introduced CarPlay in 2014, several German automakers including Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen expressed concerns about losing infotainment data such as navigation search. Toyota resisted adding CarPlay and Android Auto, which provides a similar capability for Google’s Android devices, until 2018.

Because CarPlay is uniform across all vehicles, automakers relinquish brand differentiation on in-dash displays to Apple and Google. In its current iteration, automakers restrict CarPlay to a vehicle’s center-dash display and allow it to duplicate iPhone apps for calls, messages and navigation. The system includes third-party apps, including Waze, Spotify, ChargePoint and others. Drivers control the apps via a car’s touchscreen and voice control.

The latest version of CarPlay reaches even deeper into the dashboard and “communicates with your vehicle’s real-time systems,” Emily Schubert, Apple’s senior manager for car experience engineering, said at the Worldwide Developer Conference.

The preview showed how CarPlay could replace an automaker’s instrument panel displays for speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauges and fuel or EV battery level. It also allows customizing an instrument panel using Apple-curated layouts, colors, backgrounds and dials.

And it can add customizable widgets to car displays that show calendar items, weather information, address book contacts and more from a connected iPhone.

Given their long product lead times, automakers would need to start implementing the new version of CarPlay soon. But Rob Passaro, an automotive technology and product management consultant who worked closely with Apple while at BMW, said he hasn’t heard of any automakers proceeding with its implementation since the announcement.

Still, Apple’s vast popularity among consumers gives it significant leverage over automakers. Buyers now see CarPlay as standard equipment, said Brian Moody, executive editor at Cox Automotive’s Autotrader.

According to Schubert, 98 per cent of new vehicles now come with CarPlay and 79 per cent of buyers “only consider CarPlay-capable vehicles” when shopping for new cars.

“Trying to boot CarPlay at this point is a pretty big risk,” said Mike Ramsey, a Gartner automotive and smart mobility analyst.

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