Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

Apple CarPlay Dives Deeper Into the Dash

by Edward Sanchez | Jun 08, 2022

Apple Next-Generation CarPlay Full DashboardAs part of its WWDC 2022 presentation, Apple announced an update to its CarPlay automotive infotainment connectivity suite, in which it detailed considerably deeper integration into the vehicle’s systems than the previous smartphone projection solution, which essentially mirrored some of the phones’ apps onto the vehicle’s center display. Currently, CarPlay has little to no interaction with a vehicle’s data, with the in-vehicle client simply acting as a software layer and intermediary between the user’s brought-in device and the infotainment display.
CarPlay Gauges Analog Theme

Based on the description given by Emily Schubert, Senior Manager of Car Experience Engineering, the next-generation CarPlay approach will have significantly deeper integration with the car’s hardware. Long a frustration with the earlier iterations of CarPlay, the next-generation solution finally brings the ability to change non-streaming radio stations in-app, as well as adjust vehicle climate settings in-app. Based on the ASIL definitions, this next generation of CarPlay would need to be minimally ASIL-B compliant, since that is the level that deals directly with the cluster, vehicle cameras, and lighting. This brings Apple into a regulatory realm it has not yet had to deal with in regard to functional safety.

The most significant change from the previous smartphone projection approach is that CarPlay will take over the UI or “skin” of the gauge cluster. This suggests a much greater level of embedded software capabilities for this approach than the current iteration, which relies almost exclusively on the processing power of the brought-in iPhone. Schubert specifically mentioned the new approach communicates with “real time” vehicle systems to display vital information (speed, fuel/charge level).

A plausible, but unconfirmed approach is that the user’s brought in-device acts as a validation key to “unlock” embedded capabilities already installed on the vehicle, activating the CarPlay UI/UX. After an initial pairing, the vehicle would likely memorize the user’s settings, and default to the CarPlay experience whenever it detected the paired device, however the specifics of the interaction between the CarPlay layer and the vehicle systems and data are unknown at this point. The presentation also showed multiple “themes” for the display, including simulated analog gauges, and a more futuristic display with 3D maps. Although we don’t know the specific models and production debut yet, the following brands were shown on-screen during the presentation: Acura, Audi, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, Porsche, Renault, Volvo
Apple CarPlay OEMs

Conspicuously absent from that list is BMW, one of the earliest adopters of CarPlay, and an early-stage development partner with Apple for the smartphone projection system. However, that’s not to say that they may not offer an integration of the new CarPlay at a future date.

Based on Apple’s description, and on-screen demonstration, of the technology, it sounds like the next generation of CarPlay is an extensive application layer with access to real-time vehicle data. Of note, three major OEM groups that have made previous public commitments to use Android Automotive OS were listed as participating partners in this future evolution of CarPlay: Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, Geely’s Volvo and Polestar brands, and Ford Motor Company. It’s no secret that Google and Apple have been fierce historic rivals yet have coexisted as smartphone projection systems for the past five years in automotive dashboards. Polestar’s comment in a blog post on The Verge noting that the next generation of CarPlay would be deployed as an OTA update within the next month was especially interesting, considering it was one of the first brands to publicly commit to Android Automotive as an embedded infotainment platform, as well as it’s adoption of Google Automotive Services (GAS), suggesting there’s enough of a functional difference between the two systems as to not raise the ire of Google.

By all indications, and based on the language used in the WWDC video, it appears this next-generation iteration of CarPlay is a software application layer with access to vehicle data, making it a different approach than Android Automotive, but a difference that will likely be lost on most consumers. At this time, though, it is still unclear what systems in the vehicle, for example the headunit and instrument cluster, or a cockpit domain controller, will be handling infotainment and cluster display functions. 

Silicon Valley is full of “frenemies” that are both competitors and partners, or at least peaceful peers, and this time around looks no different. Yes, from an engineering and technical standpoint, AAOS and this next-generation version of CarPlay may be fundamentally different animals, but that won’t matter to consumers. What they’ll care about is if they have an iPhone and walk into showrooms asking if a certain model has the “iPhone operating system.” Ultimately, UI/UX, reliability and functionality will win the day. AAOS may still be the core OS platform, with CarPlay as a software client just running on top of it. Apple promises greater detail on the next generation of CarPlay in the months ahead.

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