I’m no luddite when it comes to in-car technology. I enjoy what techno goodies that have seeped into today’s cars. Hands-free phone calls are convenient and listening to Spotify thanks to Bluetooth connectivity is wonderful.
I like it even more when that technology is out of the way.
That’s why Apple’s unveiling at last week’s Geneva auto show has me worried about the future of in-car technology. While it’s no surprise that Apple’s answer to crappy infotainment systems from automakers is smartphone integration through their new CarPlay system, I have doubts that it will solve many of today’s problems.
Distracted driving is a problem—and it will continue to be one as more automakers continue to push more technology into the car. Apple’s CarPlay presents two new problems.
Apple is a company that has built its success on beautifully designed hardware paired with intuitive and engaging software.
The examples of CarPlay shown so far look lackluster and dated—eschewing the classic Apple experience for something better suited for 2005. There will be little difference between the interfaces in a Ferrari when compared to that of a Kia.
Apple is positioning CarPlay as a safer alternative to today’s in-car systems because of extensive Siri integration.
While Siri is supposed to mitigate distraction driving with voice recognition, a recent report from Pipar Jaffray’s Apple analyst, Gene Munster, says Siri only works about 79 percent of the time. That’s better than what the automakers can achieve, but still not great.
It’s only hopeful that Siri will become better as time goes on.
The other downfall of automakers implementing Apple’s CarPlay is that a majority of the phone market is dominated by Android-powered smartphones. It’s not clear what, if any, options would be available for drivers who don’t own an iPhone.
While the majority of automakers looking to implement CarPlay by the end of this year, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari, are aimed at wealthier income brackets that are more likely to be iPhone buyers, there are numerous other, plebian automakers who are committed: BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Suzuki.
It will be interesting to see what happens when CarPlay is pushed into more and more cars and how it affects the smartphone market. If anything, it will pave the way to get more iPhones into the hands of consumers, which, if that is the case, well played Apple.