Apple's "iOS in the Car" was first discussed at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June of 2013, but at this week's Geneva Motor Show, it was formally introduced and rebranded as "CarPlay." The system lets Apple compete with Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Livio Radio and bring the Apple experience inside the car, fresh from the factory.
Of course, CarPlay will provide the essentials such as voice control of incoming calls, iMessages, and GPS navigation. Where CarPlay can shine is integration with your iPhone's calendar and email. CarPlay could anticipate upcoming meetings and offer routing directions, without your asking for it.
Third-party developers may be able to create their own CarPlay-aware apps. Beats, iHeartRadio, and Spotify are already supported. As with AirPlay for Apple TV, the iPhone is doing the grunt work. The CarPlay touchscreen is acting as an interactive display to control the app running on the iPhone. This means car makers, and owners, won't have to worry about every iOS update since the CarPlay system shouldn't need to be updated frequently as it's not running iOS. It also means an iPhone 5, 5c, or 5s is required, and that keeps customers in the Apple ecosystem.
Apple's Siri Eyes Free will be a big part of the CarPlay solution. A dedicated button, either on the steering wheel, shifter, or dash will activate this mode. The display will be muted or minimal, to avoid distracted driving, and commands can be issued by voice so you can keep your hands on the wheel. Ironically, games, movies, and more can be sent to the CarPlay display, so keep your eyes on the road and leave those distractions to the passengers!
Look for CarPlay-enabled cars from Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Volvo in 2014. Other committed manufacturers include BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, and Vauxhaul (Opel). If you can't wait for such a system, consider a Martian Watch with a dedicated Siri button. I've used my Martian Watch while riding a motorcycle which is great because I don't need to remove my gloves to have incoming text messages read. Still, a dedicated CarPlay system will be on my wish list for my next car!