Apple brings iOS to cars with CarPlay

Smart phone companies are in a mad dash to win over your car's dashboard. The most recent offering? CarPlay, which puts iOS on your dashboard and Siri in the passenger seat.

A staff member sets up iPhone 5S handsets for a display picture at Apple Inc's announcement event in Beijing, September 11, 2013. The iPhone 5S runs iOS 7, the new Apple mobile operating system. A second update to the operating system was released this week.

Apple is offering a way to use Maps and safely hold your steering wheel at the same time.

The company introduced “CarPlay” technology on Monday at the Geneva International Motor convention. CarPlay puts Apple software on the dashboards of cars, allowing drivers to control needed functions with a word or quick touch, rather than navigating both their phone and the road. Apple revealed that this technology was in the works last summer at its annual WWDC keynote, but this is the first time we're seeing it ready for the roads.

“CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” says Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing in a release. “iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction.

Here’s how it works. After connecting their iPhone with CarPlay, drivers can either control these features through the cars’ native interface or press a button on the steering wheel that lets the Siri function takes over. Users can ask Siri to make calls, access contacts, and listen to voicemails. When messages come in, Siri can read drivers’ messages and let them dictate responses. The map function has been updated through CarPlay to be more “intuitive” says Apple, by anticipating destinations based on messaging and contacts. Plus drivers can access their audio books, music, and iTunes Radio though the car's speakers, and CarPlay will support select third-party apps such as Spotify and iHeartRadio.

Currently, CarPlay is available on select Volvo, Mercedes, and Ferrari cars shipped in 2014. Apple announced 14 more car companies that will roll out the feature soon, including General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota.  

It is available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lightning-enabled phones (iPhone 5S, 5C, and 5). No word on pricing yet.

This is the most recent effort by tech companies to win over the dashboard of drivers’ cars. Earlier this year, Google announced a partnership between Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and chip manufacturer Nvidia with the hopes of creating an Android chip that is compatible with cars, called the Open Automotive Alliance.

Will this translate to better driving by less distracted drivers? Perhaps, though some studies have shown the opposite. A study published last summer by AAA showed that in-car smart technology can lead to "suppressed brain activity, slowed reaction times, missed visual cues, and reduced visual scanning of the driving environment.”

That being said, distracted driving is an issue both automakers and mobile companies would like to see solved. A recently published study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that crash rates increased by eight times in novice drivers when dialing a mobile device, and nearly three times for experienced drivers.

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