‘CarPlay 2.0’ Is the Best Hint Yet of What the Futuristic Apple Car Will Look Like

What Apple is really doing here is giving us a teaser for its own automotive ambitions.
CarPlay iOS 16 11 Credit: Apple
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Apple’s next generation of CarPlay was arguably the most exciting thing to come out of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but what’s particularly fascinating about the new technology is how much it could be foreshadowing much bigger things to come.

After all, as impressive as this new in-car experience looks, it’s still years away from coming to a dashboard near you. “CarPlay 2.0” requires automakers to get on board, and while Apple has said it’s talking to nearly all of them, it’s anybody’s guess right now how many have committed to adopting the new technology. Even for those already working on the idea, Apple has said we won’t see the first vehicle announcements until late 2023.

It’s the sort of move that’s left some folks scratching their heads. Apple will likely face an uphill struggle convincing carmakers to adopt these new features, especially when it requires them to give up an unprecedented level of control over their proprietary in-car systems. Apple had a difficult enough time getting traction for its multi-display support in iOS 13; this one will be an order of magnitude harder.

However, there’s one new automaker on the horizon that won’t need any convincing: Apple itself.

As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman points out in the latest issue of his Power On newsletter, this could be what “CarPlay 2.0” is really about. Sure, Apple would love to see carmakers adopt this — and there are many good reasons to do so — but even if other companies don’t bite, what Apple is really doing here is giving us a teaser for its own automotive ambitions.

The easy answer is that Apple wants to show consumers its car chops. You like what you see here? Then you’re going to love the Apple car. It also helps the company learn about the auto industry and gather the necessary data to help build its own ride.Mark Gurman

Further, the more Apple offers up this technology to its future competitors, the more it can avoid more antitrust headaches in the future. The Apple Car will undoubtedly have a dashboard that looks a lot like “CarPlay 2.0,” with tight integration into not only the iPhone but also Apple Maps, Apple Music, and more; however, that will also be available to any other carmaker that wants to add it. This will make it harder for regulators to accuse Apple of using “product tying” to try and sell the Apple Car.

In his newsletter, Gurman also observes that this is just another page in Apple’s usual playbook. As he notes, iTunes preceded the iPod, HealthKit and the Health app heralded the arrival of the Apple Watch, and it’s readily apparent that ARKit is the gateway into Apple’s much-rumored AR/VR headset.

Gurman also notes that HomeKit came ahead of the HomePod, but with Apple’s awkward living room strategy, it’s less likely that it was part of the same kind of master product plan.

Apple has also long had an “if you build it, they will come” strategy. We saw it with Apple Pay, which drove the adoption of contactless payments in the U.S., and we’re seeing it today with Apple’s Digital IDs. “CarPlay 2.0” is the same thing; Apple is showing it off to everyone now in the hopes of driving customer demand for this technology which will, in turn, pressure carmakers to adopt it.

From what Apple has shown us, history could repeat itself in the auto industry. Granted, I’m not your typical iPhone user, but CarPlay has been the first thing on my checklist when buying a new car since 2015. In fact, I upgraded to the highest trim on my current vehicle almost exclusively to get Wireless CarPlay support.

The next chapter in CarPlay will almost certainly drive at least some of the same customer demand, especially once a few automakers adopt it, forcing others to do the same if they want to remain competitive. That’s precisely what’s already happened with CarPlay, which is now available on over 80 percent of new cars sold worldwide. That percentage also gets even higher when calculated by models; many automakers don’t include it on entry-level packages, but almost every model has at least one higher trim level equipped with CarPlay.

More than just a teaser, the more integrated CarPlay could also help users ease into the Apple Car experience. Once Apple can take over the dashboards of other carmakers, iPhone owners will become comfortable and familiar with Apple’s much more elegant way of doing things, smoothing the transition into a fully Apple-made car.

Gurman suggests that Apple could extend this to a “carOS” that it makes available to other automakers. Google is already working on something similar with Android Automotive, which both Ford and Volvo are reportedly on board with. Apple isn’t about to cede that market to Google, so “CarPlay 2.0” may just be the first step to that larger ambition.

If the next version of CarPlay becomes popular enough, perhaps Apple could create a version that is built completely into vehicles and doesn’t require an iPhone. An Apple “carOS” could be useful for automakers, which are always looking for features that can increase sales and cut expenses. Mark Gurman

Gurman’s sources have also told him that Apple’s car project remains mainly on track, which means the first Apple Car could appear not long after “CarPlay 2.0” begins appearing on other vehicles in 2024. Since taking over the project last year, Apple VP Kevin Lynch has reportedly reshuffled the management team and has the group “hitting deadlines that it might have missed under previous leadership.”

While it’s doubtful that Apple will meet its ambitious goal of building a fully autonomous car by 2025, it hasn’t stopped trying, and Gurman says it’s aiming to at least announce a vehicle by then. It’s also possible Apple could put the self-driving aspects on the back burner and choose to release “a well-designed Apple car with all of the iPhone’s bells and whistles” instead.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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