Apple announced a new plan for iOS integration in automobiles. Dubbed “iOS in the Car”, the feature will allow drivers to control their iOS device from their car’s dashboard touch screen. Many automakers have signed on for the feature, including Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevy, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Opel, and Jaguar. While other technology companies have made their way into automobiles, this broad acceptance is indicative of Apple’s integral system engineering. AirPlay has also been adopted by many manufacturers, such as Marantz, Denon, Harman Kardon, Yamaha and Pioneer.
iOS in the Car is not a standalone system. The technology enables access to an iOS device’s features through the dashboard screen. The system will allow users to play music, use Maps, send and receive messages, all hands-free with Siri. Siri will be updated to handle these new requests. Siri has already taken on more functionality with iOS 7.
iOS in the Car creates a symbiotic relationship between Apple and car manufacturers. Many car buyers will select a model that can integrate with their mobile device. Alternatively, buying a car that supports an iOS device will help Apple’s sales. iPod integration, amongst other features, played an important factor when I purchased a new car a few years ago. A study shows that car buyers are more concerned with smart phone integration than price or size of the vehicle.
Apple’s foray into automotive electronics is nothing new. As Eddie Cue mentioned at the WWDC, 95% of cars sold today support the iPod or other iOS device.
For those who want deeper integration, Apple has teamed up with Volkswagen to develop the iBeetle. This special model of the Beetle offers a centralized iPhone device dock and specialized apps designed for the Beetle. The car can connect to the iPhone and vice-versa. Navigation, playback of Internet radio or music playlists and hands-free phone calls are some of the basic features. The iBeetle app can also monitor car performance and compare fuel economy for different routes. Social networking is a key part of this system. Using the iBeetle app, one can get traffic tips and share a photo of the Beetle’s interior on social networks. It can even send a virtual postcard with a map of the Beetle’s location.
Honda and Acura have already partnered with Apple to use Siri technology in the 2013 Accord, RDX, and ILX. This feature requires an iPhone 4S or above, with iOS 6.
These new capabilities are launching concurrently with new research showing even hands-free electronics can cause distractions. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will prohibit such usage. This is, after all, a slippery slope. Having a passenger in the car can also distract drivers. Preventing all distrations is not possible. It’s a good idea to prevent people from texting while driving, as their eyes are not on the road. It’s unclear whether this new research, which is only supported by one major study, will affect the future of automotive electronics.