‘CarPlay 2.0’ is the best hint yet of what the futuristic Apple Car will look like

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Apple’s next-generation CarPlay may have been the most exciting thing to come out of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but what’s especially fascinating about the new technology is how much it can foreshadow much bigger things to come.

As impressive as this new in-car experience looks, after all, it’s years away from 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 a mystery at this point 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 kind of movement that makes some people scratch their heads. Apple will likely face an uphill battle to convince automakers to adopt these new features, especially when they have to relinquish an unprecedented level of control over their own in-car systems. Apple had a hard enough time getting to grips with multi-display support in iOS 13; this one will be an order of magnitude more difficult.

However, there is one new automaker on the horizon that needs no convincing whatsoever: Apple itself.

As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman points out in the latest issue of his Switch newsletter, this could be what “CarPlay 2.0” is really about. Sure, Apple would love to see automakers adopt this — and there are plenty of good reasons for that — but even if other companies don’t bite, Apple really gives us a taste of its own auto aspirations here.

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

Furthermore, the more Apple offers this technology to its future competitors, the more it can prevent more antitrust issues in the future. The Apple Car will no doubt 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 automaker who wants to add it. This makes it harder for regulators to accuse Apple of using “product linking” to try to sell the Apple Car.

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

Gurman also notes that HomeKit predated the HomePod, but with Apple’s awkward living room strategy, it’s less likely it was part of the same sort 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 fueled the adoption of contactless payments in the US, and we see it today with Apple’s digital IDs. “CarPlay 2.0” is the same; Apple is now showing it to everyone in hopes of boosting customer demand for this technology, which in turn will pressure automakers to adopt it.

From what Apple showed us, history could be repeating itself in the auto industry. Admittedly, 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 almost exclusively upgraded to the top trim on my current vehicle to get Wireless CarPlay support.

The next chapter in CarPlay will almost certainly drive at least some of the same customer demand, especially if a few automakers use it, and force others to do the same if they want to stay competitive. That is exactly what has already happened with CarPlay, which is now available on more than 80 percent of new cars sold worldwide. That percentage gets even higher when calculated by models; many automakers don’t include it in 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 can also help users make the Apple Car experience easier. Once Apple can adopt the dashboards of other automakers, iPhone owners will become familiar with Apple’s much more elegant way of working, easing the transition to a fully Apple-made car.

Gurman suggests that Apple could expand this into 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 well be the first step toward that bigger ambition.

If the next version of CarPlay becomes popular enough, Apple may be able to make a version that is completely built into vehicles and doesn’t require an iPhone. An Apple “carOS” can come in handy for automakers, who are always looking for features that can increase sales and reduce costs. Mark Gurman

Gurman’s sources have also told him that Apple’s car project remains largely on track, meaning 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 its management team and the group has “met deadlines it may have missed under previous leadership.”

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