Geneva: Apple’s CarPlay launch could be a game changer

CarPlay is more than just hands-free technology, it’s also a way for car makers to tempt an increasingly apathetic buying public into dealerships

Volvo, along with Ferrari and Mercedes, will be among the first to fit Apple’s CarPlay software.

Volvo, along with Ferrari and Mercedes, will be among the first to fit Apple’s CarPlay software.


One of the more significant Geneva Show launches may not actually be a car at all, but an operating system. Apple is using the show to demonstrate the first generation of its new CarPlay technology, which is compatible with all of its fifth-generation iPhones and which connects to a car’s computer via a proprietary USB cable.

When connected, CarPlay can take over a car’s central touchscreen controller and overlay an Apple iOS-style menu on top of the existing control layout. That will allow the driver to use the phone’s functionality for maps (Apple’s only, not Googles which could be a potential weak point of the system), music and, of course, phone calls. The system also provides full voice-control integration through Apple’s existing voice-app, Siri. Siri canbe activated, in most cases, via buttons on the car’s steering wheel, making it potentially truly hands free.

Apple is launching the system in something of a blue-chip manner – the first car makers to fit CarPlay into their models will be Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo – the Swedish brand is already demonstrating CarPlay on the huge touchscreen that dominated the cabin of the Concept Estate car that it brought to Geneva. Volvo’s system actually uses a split-screen effect, with the menus for controlling the car’s built-in systems on top, while the Apple section is lower down. Others will swiftly follow though, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota have all signed up to integrate CarPlay into their models in the future. Many of those companies are also working hard on similar setups for Google’s Android operating system, although the proliferation of devices and variations of the software makes that task rather harder than working with Apple’s ‘closed loop’ setup.

Car makers will be hoping that technology like this will make their products rather more relevant and interesting to a generation raised on smartphones and tablets – a generation which appears to be swiftly falling out of love with the car itself.