Apple's CarPlay is taking over your car

Apple (AAPL) unveiled a host of new software and hardware during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, giving the world a look at iOS 16, watchOS 9, macOS Ventura, and even the company’s new M2 chip and redesigned MacBook Air.

But one announcement should have gotten more attention than it did — an early look at the next generation of Apple’s CarPlay. CarPlay is the company’s iPhone-powered automotive interface. Anyone with a car that is AirPlay compatible simply plugs in their phone, or connects it wirelessly, and the infotainment system automatically switches to an interface similar to your iPhone’s.

The upcoming version of CarPlay, however, goes far beyond the current iteration’s capabilities. Your iPhone will take over your car’s infotainment system, its instrument cluster, and even the A/C and seat controls.

Automakers have struggled for years to build interfaces that are as easy to understand as a smartphone, often making things more confusing in the process. And with the next version of CarPlay, which launches in late 2023, it looks like automakers may cede more control to Apple.

CarPlay will finally be able to control parts of your car

There’s no guarantee that automakers will completely get on board with Apple’s plans for their vehicles. After all, doing so would be like letting someone come into your home and allowing them to repaint the walls the way they like them.


But let’s face it, consumers like using their iPhones, and in the case of Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Android Auto, their Android devices. I recently bought a Hyundai and while I love driving it, even in New York City, the interface is unattractive and clunky. That’s why, according to Apple, 79% of car buyers would only consider purchasing a vehicle that’s CarPlay-capable.

Thankfully, my Hyundai supports both CarPlay and Android Auto, so as soon as I get in, I just plug in my iPhone, and I’ve got all of my apps and settings ready to go.

Apple's next-generation version of CarPlay will span across multiple displays will let you access your climate controls and more from one interface. (Image: Apple)
Apple's next-generation version of CarPlay will span across multiple displays will let you access your climate controls and more from one interface. (Image: Apple) (Apple)

CarPlay’s one shortcoming, though, is that it can’t control even the most basic vehicle features outside of playing music over my car’s speakers. To even access the radio, I have to switch out of CarPlay to the vehicle’s standard interface and then back to CarPlay. For drivers with temperature controls built into their infotainment systems, that’s doubly annoying. It’s also problematic when driving to have to switch between two different interfaces just to put the AC on.

The next interaction of CarPlay, however, will allow you to not only adjust the climate settings; seat position; garage door controls; and, thankfully, radio without having to switch to the automaker’s interface. You’ll even be able to expand CarPlay’s interface to the instrument cluster as well.

During its on-screen demo, Apple showed a vehicle with CarPlay displaying a vehicle’s speed, tachometer, fuel gauge, engine temperature, and odometer. What’s more, you’ll be able to change what appears between the large speedometer and tachometer, adding either a map, compass, the name of the song you’re playing and more.

You can also customize the color of the gauges and swap them between a modern look and a classic look.

Automakers are making deals with Big Tech

Apple isn’t the only tech giant making moves in the auto industry; Alphabet is increasingly pushing into the automotive space, inking deals that make its in-car version of Android the base infotainment system for vehicle manufacturers.

Last year, Ford signed a deal with Google that lets the tech giant build out Ford’s system, meaning Android will be built into future Ford vehicles from the jump. Google is already doing the same thing with GM, packaging Android directly into select 2022 vehicles.

Chevy is offering Android built into its 2022 Tahoe and Suburban LT trims and above. (Image: Chevy)
Chevy is offering Android built into its 2022 Tahoe and Suburban LT trims and above. (Image: Chevy) (Chevy)

GM’s systems still work with CarPlay when you connect your iPhone, and it’s likely Ford’s systems will work too.

While Apple hasn’t made any deals to become the default operating system for automakers, its CarPlay is already available in some 98% of cars in the U.S. And with Apple controlling 50% of U.S. smartphone market share in Q1 2022, according to CounterPoint Research, you can bet automakers will continue to offer CarPlay compatibility well into the future.

Apple says Acura, Audi, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes, Nissan, Polestar, Renault, and Volvo are working on the next iteration of CarPlay. How they integrate the next version of CarPlay, however, is still up in the air.

We’ll have to wait to find out until late 2023, when the iPhone maker says automakers will start introducing the software.

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