Apple just unveiled an ambitious new update to CarPlay that powers an automobile’s entire instrument cluster.
Highlighted at the WWDC22 keynote on Monday, the new CarPlay goes way beyond music and maps. It dives deep into a car’s controls and user interface.
Next-generation CarPlay takes control
The next-generation system is able to display metrics like speed, distance, engine RPM, gas levels, oil temperature and engine temperature.
It can be used to control the car’s interior climate, turn the AC on or off, turn on steering wheel- and seat heaters amongst others.
“Deep integration with the car’s hardware lets you tune your car’s radio or change your temperature without ever leaving the CarPlay experience,” said Emily Schubert, Apple’s senior manager of car experience engineering, during the keynote.
The new CarPlay is a big step up from the current system, which is mostly used for streaming music and maps. It had previously been rumored as project “IronHeart.”
First introduced in 2014, CarPlay is currently displayed on a suitably-equipped car radio or built-in infotainment display, but a driver is listening to the radio and wants to turn on the AC, they have to jump from one UI to another. The new CarPlay will take over all the car’s controls.
In addition, it looks like it’d integrate with screens all over the dashboard. One screen grab from the keynote appears to show a car with an interactive dash that stretches all the way across the front of the interior almost to the passenger side, with a large, separate infotainment screen below.
CarPlay shows car’s metrics in real-time
The new system appears to entirely take over the car’s instrument panel, which means a lot of car manufacturers will be giving over their UI efforts to Apple.
“Your iPhone communicates with your vehicles’ real-time systems in an on-device, privacy-friendly way, showing all of your driving information like speed, RPMs, fuel level, temperature and more,” said Schubert. “And no matter what type of unique screen shapes or layouts you may have, this next generation of CarPlay feels like it was made specifically for your car.”
Although Schubert didn’t explain exactly how this would work, the system appears to be integrated into a car’s dashboard so that it entirely takes over the car’s interface — displaying the speed, gas levels and other important metrics where the traditional display would normally be behind the steering wheel.
CarPlay customization options
The new CarPlay allows drivers to customize the instrument cluster to their preference, ranging from traditional analog dials to modern digital gauges. Drivers can customize colors, dial treatments, backgrounds and layouts to provide various looks and feels. Apple said there’d also be different curated themes and styles for the gauges.
“It’s the very best of both your car and your iPhone, and it goes beyond what you can do,” Schubert said.
New CarPlay is coming next year to lots of car brands
Apple said it’s working with carmakers to bring the new system to vehicles later next year. In a slide shown onscreen, Apple listed at more than a dozen car manufacturers, including Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover and Volvo.
CarPlay is already a massively popular feature for new car buyers. Schubert said it’s already available on 98% of cars in the United States. She also said 79% of new car buyers will only consider cars that work with CarPlay.
“It’s a must-have feature when shopping for a new vehicle,” said Schubert.
The new system may come from work on Apple’s Project Titan, the as-yet-unannounced electric car project that’s been gestating for several years.
New CarPlay’s customization options
It looks like the next-gen CarPlay will offer a Dark Mode for nighttime driving, too. Plus, it will offer customization options so users can switch between analog and digital gauges. Here are some screengrabs from the presentation showing how the revamped CarPlay will look: