Apple’s 2023 CarPlay is a preview of Apple Car – and scares Detroit

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Apple shared some big updates coming to CarPlay during WWDC 2022. If the “Apple Car” is real, we just got a glimpse of its dashboard.

Arriving in 2023, CarPlay will act as an operating system for vehicles. It will support the car’s instrument cluster to display fuel and oil gauges, engine temperature, miles per gallon, and more.

There are 14 car sellers working with Apple to integrate CarPlay into their upcoming vehicle offerings. What the drivers will actually get depends less on Apple than on the vendors themselves.

Of course, a car designed entirely by Apple has been rumored for about seven years.

The story of “Apple Car”

“Apple Car” rumors claim the vehicle will be an electric model, competing with the likes of Tesla. Known internally as Project Titan, the vehicle could even be autonomous.

The rumors date back to 2014 when the first leak described the vehicle-focused Project Titan. Apple formed a shell company called SixtyEight Research and began working at a facility known as SG5 in California.

Later rumors detailed leadership departures with Titan’s ever-changing design and technology. Bob Mansfield took over the project in 2016, announcing a change in strategy that Apple should not directly compete with Tesla.

In June 2019, Apple acquired, an autonomous vehicle startup. This was confirmed by Apple and the company received employees, cars and other assets as part of the deal.

A photograph of a building believed to be connected to SixtyEight Research in 2015

Numerous patents revealed details of the “Apple Car”, such as a multi-user display system, automatic configuration and different private displays for each passenger.

A suite of safety patents were found in February 2021. These include an airbag-based occupant safety system, an electronic stability control system and dynamic element protection in which the car can lock the doors .

The latest rumors in the “Apple Car” timeline are from December 2021, during which a senior engineering manager and three engineers left for an aerospace startup. In November of the same year, several reports called for a 2025 version.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said a vehicle launch is unlikely before 2025. In August 2018 he said the launch date could be as early as 2023. *Previous dates include 2020 and 2021 with delays related to the departures of team leaders.

If all goes according to plan, TF Securities predicts a launch between 2025 and 2027. Apple has approached automakers such as Hyundai and Nissan, and may work with Kia to manufacture the “Apple Car”.

Traditional CarPlay design for the dashboard

Traditional CarPlay design for the dashboard

The new version of CarPlay could be a hint of what customers can expect in the vehicle. It’s likely the car will be mostly digital with physical controls provided as a failsafe. CarPlay could really become a true vehicle operating system with “built-in” self-driving capabilities.

The next generation of CarPlay

At first glance and in theory, the update announced at WWDC 2022 makes CarPlay better than ever. Integration with vehicle hardware allows tuning the radio or changing the internal temperature. Widgets are included to display calendars, weather, smart home controls, and current travel in Apple Maps.

This level of integration is unprecedented for CarPlay. Currently, the system allows drivers to access iPhone-based apps from a vehicle’s dashboard. Included apps are Podcasts, Music, Apple Maps and others.

The “next-gen” version would turn CarPlay into a full infotainment system, a term used to describe the vehicle’s command center with media, controls, monitors, and more.

The iPhone communicates with the vehicle’s systems in real time and this happens locally as a privacy measure. The CarPlay interface will be able to adapt to the unique screen sizes of each vehicle. Like iOS 16, the user interface can be customized to suit the driver’s desires.

Apple says automakers around the world are working to integrate CarPlay into their vehicles. Land Rover, Audi, Lincoln, Porsche, Nissan, Ford, Jaguar, Acura, Volvo, Honda, Polestar, Infiniti and others were featured during the keynote.

CarPlay with Apple Maps navigation

CarPlay with Apple Maps navigation

Vehicles will start being announced late next year, and Apple will share more information “later.”

The road ahead

Apple needs to work hard with automakers to deliver this level of system integration. Never before has CarPlay been able to interface with a car’s real-time systems, and that will likely require tweaking.

CarPlay must be perfect. The average vehicle weight is 4,156 pounds, according to a 2020 report from the Environmental Protection Agency. This is far more dangerous than rolling out an iOS update that introduces a storage bug.

Of course, automakers also need to be on board, and 14 is a good start. Apple’s way of doing things will deepen with next-gen CarPlay, and given automakers’ reluctance to open the door to Apple, they might not want to cede even more control.

After the preview in the WWDC keynote, The edge contacted car manufacturers. What the post got was a variety of noncommittal responses.

The least lukewarm response came from BMW. He said he has focused on his own infotainment system called iDrive and will continue to evaluate CarPlay as it is now, not as promised for 2023.

Another customization option for CarPlay

Another customization option for CarPlay

Stellantis called what Apple announced an “extension rather than a direct upgrade to CarPlay.” Although Apple didn’t call it CarPlay 2.0, it’s a significant upgrade that will transform the driving experience.

The automaker is working with Amazon to develop software for delivery vehicles that will launch in 2024. Stellantis may not want to integrate car software over which it has no control.

Like BMW, Mercedes-Benz will be evaluating CarPlay, but also plans to hold discussions with Apple in the future. Some of its vehicles support the current version of CarPlay, and that relationship is likely to continue.

Volvo was the most engaged, saying it plans to support next-gen CarPlay in future vehicles. Volvo has also worked with Google’s Android Automotive initiative, and it’s good to hand over control of the user experience to Google.

The connection between the iPhone and a vehicle is a point to consider. Apple didn’t share details, only saying it will happen on the device privately. A Bluetooth connection is not sufficient to handle all of a vehicle’s real-time data, so the physical wires will have to remain.

The CarPlay user interface dubbed

CarPlay user interface described as “modern” by Apple

If the “Apple Car” is launched, special connectivity could be a selling point for CarPlay. Apple would love nothing better than a driver slipping their iPhone into a special holder to make the experience work.

Or, an iPhone wouldn’t even be necessary as CarPlay could be integrated as an operating system and take advantage of a car’s network connection.

Even with early announcements, it will take years for next-gen CarPlay to arrive in vehicles and much longer for widespread adoption. As WWDC should be, the tease was forward looking.

What really emerges from car manufacturers still reluctant to let Apple approach systems other than radio and in-car entertainment is still unclear.

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