Apple’s CarPlay is bobbing up in more and more places. As the projected summer rollout nears, CarPlay has shown up in the iOS 7.1 upgrade. Apple partners Alpine and Pioneer have already announced aftermarket systems that can be installed in older cars. And our first chance to see it live happened on Monday, when Apple partner Mercedes-Benz showed us a prototype implementation of CarPlay in a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Our guide was Hamza Lakhami, manager of embedded software at Mercedes-Benz’s Research and Development, North America, based in Sunnyvale, California. In this prototype, Mercedes-Benz had crafted a small, Stump-Stand-like cradle for the iPhone – using a 3D printer, of course. The cradle sat in the centre console, so it could plug in without the hassle of having a cable plugged into a port.
When Lakhami connected the phone, the CarPlay logo flashed on the phone’s screen, and the CarPlay home screen appeared on the car’s display. Mercedes-Benz does not design touchscreens into its cars, but Lakhami showed how you could use controls built into the centre console to navigate the CarPlay screen. A hard button on the console summoned Siri.
The screen icons are the same ones you’ve seen on other CarPlay examples. You can make phone calls, access your iTunes library, find locations and plan routes, and even send and receive text messages. Lakhami noted that third-party apps – like Mercedes-Benz’s own Comand remote-control app, seen in the image above right – could be added to the screen as developers bring them to Apple’s App Store.
This was just a prototype, so there were hiccups: the air-conditioning’s soft whoosh seemed to make Siri harder of hearing, though Lakhami said it had worked just fine in a previous demo. When CarPlay finally goes live in the near future, though, it looks like it will make it a lot easier – and safer – to use your iPhone in your car.
by Melissa Riofrio, Techhive