Apple has announced partnerships with automakers that will bring the iOS-powered CarPlay to vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo this March, followed by automobiles from other manufacturers “down the road.”
CarPlay offers in-vehicle integration with Apple’s Maps, iTunes, and Siri, with the lattermost serving as the linchpin of the platform: the driver can use the digital assistant to dictate messages, make search queries, and receive turn-by-turn directions simply by speaking. On the entertainment front, CarPlay will support Spotify, Beats Radio, and iHeartRadio on top of iTunes and iTunes Radio.
In addition to voice control (activated via a button on the steering wheel), drivers can operate CarPlay via the vehicle’s touch-screen (if available) or dashboard knobs and buttons.
CarPlay is available with iOS 7 and will operate with Lightning-enabled iPhones such as the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5—in other words, if you’re still rocking with iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, you’re out of luck. Hyundai, Honda, Jaguar, and other car companies will roll out vehicles that support CarPlay at some point in 2014; support from Ford, Chevrolet, Kia, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and others is coming later.
Apple isn’t the only tech company exploring how to port its software into vehicles. Earlier this year, Google announced an Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) that will attempt to “optimize” Android for in-vehicle use. Participating automobile manufacturers include Audi, GM, Hyundai and Honda; Nvidia is also a partner.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring your favorite apps and music with you, and use them safely with your car’s built-in controls and in-dash display?” read a Jan. 6 note on Google’s Official Android Blog. “Together with our OAA partners, we’re working to enable new forms of integration with Android devices, and adapting Android for the car to make driving safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone.”
The increased use of software in vehicles, of course, is possible thanks to the presence of dashboard screens, voice recognition, and other technologies that seemed positively sci-fi only a decade ago. But it also raises an unnerving prospect, that the Balkanization of smartphones we’ve witnessed over the past few years could, at some point, begin to occur in the very vehicles we take on the road every day: is your Ford Google- or Apple-enabled, and how will that affect its performance behind the wheel?