Rebranding and updating its iOS in the Car program, Apple introduced its CarPlay program at the Geneva Motor show this morning. Slated to roll out later this year in models from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, the platform combines iPhone with dashboard to integrate iOS maps, calling, messaging and music playback with a car’s audio system. Apple is promoting the effort as a safer way to interact with the infotainment and calling operating while driving.
The iPhone connects to the car, which translates phone functionality into interfaces and voice activation customized to the driving experience. Siri is the primary interface for most operations and is meant to replace most operations that otherwise require button pushing and knob turning. The voice interface will provide directions, including turn-by-turn instructions and traffic updates. The calling and messaging mechanism will recognize commands to call a contact list or to send text messages.
The CarPlay system works with Apple's own Music and Podcasts apps as well as select third party music apps that include iHeartRadio, Beats Radio, Spotify and Stitcher.
Other makes to get CarPlay integration this year include Honda, Hyundai and Jaguar. The company cites future models coming from most of the other major manufacturers, including BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
The “telematics” market is the next great battleground for mobile platforms. Earlier this year Google partnered with GM, Audi and Honda to support its Open Automobile Alliance. This is an effort to extend the relatively open architecture of Android to cars. Initially the major carmakers have been reticent to let into their vehicles the operating systems that dominate smartphones. In the first years of advanced in-car interfaces, the car makers preferred using their own custom designs in order to maintain total control of the experience. That proprietary attitude appears to be evolving as consumers push back against having to learn new interfaces with each new connected device that comes to market.