Despite its limitations, it’s hard to argue that Apple’s CarPlay is one of the best infotainment systems out there, especially as Apple has continued to expand it over the years to add support for third-party audio and navigation apps and it’s become pretty much ubiquitous across every make and model of car on the market today.
Still, there’s one category of vehicle where CarPlay support is still quite rare, and that’s motorbikes. However, now bikers can rejoice with the appearance of the feature on several new Indian Motorcycle models, ranging from the Chieftan, Roadmaster, and Indian Challenger to the gorgeous limited-edition Chieftan Elite.
Highlighted by 9to5Mac’s Zac Hall, the 2021 Chieftan Elite has been created to celebrate the legendary brand’s 120 years in business, and to commemorate the occasion, there will only be 120 of the $35,000 bike produced worldwide.
Notable within the classy high-end bike, however, is the Ride Command infotainment system, featuring a seven-inch screen that provides full support for Apple CarPlay, along with other connected services for weather and traffic.
Interestingly, the CarPlay user experience has had to be modified slightly to make it more appropriate for use on a motorcycle. For example, even though CarPlay has supported cursor-based controls for years, allowing for navigation by moving a knob or joystick to highlight items on the screen, traditional cars generally include touchscreens, which are naturally easier for most users.
However, looking down and poking at a touchscreen would be considerably more dangerous on a motorbike, so Indian Motorcycle has instead put conveniently accessible navigation controls on the handlebars so it can be navigated without having to remove your hands.
Notably, however, the Ride Command system also requires a Bluetooth headset in order for CarPlay to be activated. As Indian Motorcycle notes in the video below, this is for safety reasons as it’s deemed important for riders to use voice controls as much as possible. In this case, the Bluetooth headset must be paired with the motorbike and not the iPhone.
Even though many other high-end vehicles have been gaining wireless CarPlay, however, the Chieftan Elite — despite its premium price tag — still relies on a wired connection. This is most likely because wireless CarPlay requires Wi-Fi, and there doesn’t seem to be much point in adding Wi-Fi to a motorbike. Instead, as Hall notes, CarPlay works over the standard Lightning cable connection, with stowaway compartments in the bike to allow you to safely stash your iPhone while riding.
Perhaps ironically, it’s motorbikes where Apple’s CarPlay service is arguably the most needed; it’s merely a really handy feature for normal cars, but almost an essential one for bikers, where it’s much more challenging to try and mount an iPhone on the dashboard while riding.
Meanwhile, however, although adoption of CarPlay remains limited among motorbike manufacturers, it’s continuing to gain even more steam among traditional carmakers, with many more 2021 models recently adopting wireless CarPlay. Once the exclusive domain of BMW, wireless CarPlay is also now available on higher-end vehicles from more everyday brands, such as Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Volkswagen, and while in many cases the specific models remain somewhat limited, the rapid expansion into 14 new brands and almost 40 different car models suggests that it won’t be long before it becomes a much more common feature across the board.