Apple has big ambitions for your car. The company recently unveiled the latest version of its software for vehicles, called Apple CarPlay. It’s what allows you to connect your phone with your car so you can hear route directions on the stereo and see your maps and music on the screen. The new version will let Apple’s operating system take over your entire dashboard, including the gas gauge and speedometer. Drivers will be able to do things like buy gas directly from the car screen instead of inserting or tapping a credit card at the pump.
Marketplace’s Matt Levin explains why this is a big deal for Apple and for carmakers.
In its automotive business, Apple is tired of being confined to that infotainment screen above where the cigarette lighter thing used to go. It wants to tell you how much gas you have, how fast you’re going and basically be the operating system for your entire car.
“Auto is a massive industry for Apple because it’s just a further expansion of their ecosystem,” said Dan Ives, who tracks Apple for Wedbush Securities. “Their goal is to be more and more entrenched in consumers’ life.”
And Apple is pretty good at sleek, intuitive software design. Carmakers, though?
“I’ll be honest. Some are really good at software implementation, some are really bad at software implementation,” said Thomas Hundal, a journalist with The Autopian.
If you’ve ever felt you needed a Ph.D. to understand your car’s dashboard, you know what he’s talking about. But Hundal does fear a future when the drive to pick up your kid from soccer practice is sponsored by, say, Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“Everybody’s looking to monetize these digital dashboards. Will you soon be seeing ads in your vehicle? Like, imagine how much that would suck,” he said.
To be clear, Hundal is talking about digital dashboards generally, not Apple’s version. Apple famously makes more money off hardware than ads, but driver data is incredibly valuable.
Carmakers don’t want to hand that data over to Silicon Valley, said Carla Bailo of the Center for Automotive Research.
She said driving and usage behavior, like the type of music you play in the car, can be monetized. The car companies would rather be the ones doing the monetizing, and they would have to agree to let Apple into their systems.
But Bailo said carmakers may not have much choice. Whether it’s Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, consumers tend to prefer having their phone on their car screens.
“I think we’re seeing a huge trend to actually putting in Google Play and Apple CarPlay. That’s what the customer is demanding,” Bailo said. “They’re going to do what the customer wants.”
For those of us who secretly rejoice in not being able to use our phones while driving, well, those days might be numbered.
Related links: Insight from Marielle Segarra
Gasoline will just be the latest purchase Apple users can make through CarPlay. Drivers can already use it to order food and pay for parking. CNBC has a story on Apple’s big automotive ambitions.
Speaking of, Apple has been trying to make its own electric, self-driving car, and as The Verge points out, this new version of CarPlay could be an indication of how that Apple car might operate.
By the way, Bloomberg had a story on this late last year. It said that, according to sources familiar with the matter, Apple’s ideal car would have no steering wheel and no pedals.
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