Apple seizes the steering wheel with CarPlay

Apple's CarPlay will let drivers communicate hands-free.

Reuters
A women uses a CarPlay device in a Volvo.

Apple and Android are battling for control of your phone, your tablet, and now your car.

Last month, Apple rolled out CarPlay, a way to make calls, send and receive messages, and get directions from your vehicle, while minimizing distractions. Rather than have drivers sneak a peek at their phones, the system uses voice commands and a screen built into the dashboard. Google has laid the groundwork for a similar in-car program, which it hopes to deploy soon.

Both plans – and the myriad schemes from carmakers themselves – implicitly accept that drivers want to stay connected even when they probably shouldn't be. Two-thirds of Americans say they use their mobile phones while behind the wheel, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in Washington. One in 4 drivers admits to sending texts or e-mails, even though nearly everyone (96 percent) agrees that doing so is a serious safety threat.

These new phone-to-car connections aim to at least make the process less distracting, but car shoppers should think twice before buying a vehicle with these new features. Car manufacturers still need to iron out some issues.

To get CarPlay up and running, you'll need two things: an iPhone 5 or newer model and a vehicle with the necessary hardware. By the end of the year, Apple's system will work with specific vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, with 13 additional manufacturers promising CarPlay integration down the road.

CarPlay vehicles have a digital dashboard, which is essentially just a computer monitor for your phone. This car-mounted screen draws all its information and Internet connection from the phone. If you forget your iPhone at home, the vehicle will still function normally, but none of the CarPlay features will work.

This configuration is a smart move. The average vehicle on American roads lasts 11.4 years, according to market research firm Polk in Southfield, Mich. Meanwhile, most smart phones turn over every other year. If automakers had tried to build smart phone components into their cars, the vehicles likely would have been obsolete before they even left the lots. By relying on the phones themselves, Apple can update the software without updating the cars.

Drivers must plug their iPhones into the cars using Apple's Lightning connector, the smaller-sized plug that replaced Apple's classic 30-pin connector in 2012. People using CarPlay better hope that if Apple changes the plug size again, the new standard will be compatible with their car – and that they will want to own an iPhone for as long as they own the car. (Remember: The original iPhone debuted only seven years ago.)

For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.