While analysts have been focused on the company’s rumored plans to bring big TVs to our living rooms and computers to our wrists, Apple has quietly been getting on with conquering car infotainment in the same way and with the same tools it used to revolutionize the smartphone market.
So much so that, according to ABI Research, by 2018 half of all new cars will be using Apple’s technology as part of a vehicle’s in-car connected infotainment, and this is despite the fact that Apple’s platform — iOS in the Car — was only announced in June and is yet to appear in a production car, and that, in the executive and luxury car sectors at least, systems that offer much of a smartphone’s functionality (whether it be access to internet radio, the news headlines or turn-by-turn satellite navigation) are already fitted, as standard.
But the fact is that smartphones have revolutionized the way we live our lives and their myriad features and functions have increased consumer expectation when it comes to in-car systems. “It is inevitable that consumers will demand to be able to use their smartphones in cars, even in luxury cars equipped with the latest top-of-the-range fully embedded infotainment systems. However, OEMs producing lower-end mass-market cars will probably invest significantly less on developing their own systems and rely more on smartphones-centric infotainment solutions,” comments Gareth Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research.
Therefore companies like BMW, Mercedes and Ferrari will have to ensure that their own systems don’t clash with that of the driver’s smartphone, while mass market producers, such as GM, Toyota and Volkswagen will be able to enhance their own in-car offerings to executive-car standards simply by offering better smartphone integration — letting customers run their device’s version of Google Maps, for instance, streamed from a phone and to a dedicated dashboard fitted screen. And, of course, by creating their own smartphone apps.
“Car OEMs face the difficult challenges of not only how best to integrate smartphones into their vehicles, but also how to ensure that the integration strategy remains viable throughout the life of the vehicle and multiple generations of smartphones,” says Owen.
In June 2012, Apple announced something called Siri Eyes Free, a new feature for the iPhone which would make it safer, easier and less distracting to use the device while driving. When engaged, a driver need only press a button on the car dashboard and use voice commands to access an iPhone’s music library, send messages and get navigation information.
A number of car companies, including Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors and Honda have already adopted it, and in September 2012, the Mercedes A Class became the first production car with the system fitted as standard. Since then a number of GM cars have been launched in the US with the feature as standard.
At this year’s World Wide Developers conference, in June, Apple announced that the feature had evolved into a platform called iOS in the Car and that it would mirror an iPhone’s screen and features on a dashboard fitted display so that a driver can use his or her car’s systems to access Siri, maps, make calls, send iMessages and listen to their iTunes music libraries.
Expected to make its debut in production cars in 2014, so far 18 car brands have announced they plan to adopt iOS in the Car or are at least interested in testing its features. They include Honda, Audi, Ferrari, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volvo.