Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Visit From CarPlay Future

Apple:

CarPlay has fundamentally changed the way people interact with their vehicles, and the next generation of CarPlay goes even further by deeply integrating with a car’s hardware. CarPlay will be able to provide content for multiple screens within the vehicle, creating an experience that is unified and consistent. Deeper integration with the vehicle will allow users to do things like control the radio or change the climate directly through CarPlay, and using the vehicle data, CarPlay will seamlessly render the speed, fuel level, temperature, and more on the instrument cluster. Users will be able to personalize their driving experience by choosing different gauge cluster designs, and with added support for widgets, users will have at-a-glance information from Weather and Music right on their car’s dashboard. More information about the next generation of CarPlay will be shared in the future, and vehicles will start to be announced late next year.

Such an advanced preview — perhaps eighteen months before the first products will become available — is uncharacteristic for Apple, but makes some sense in this case. Some commentators have speculated why automakers would permit Apple to take over every display surface in their vehicles. Early notice could help put pressure on manufacturers who have not yet committed support while ensuring Apple controls the narrative about this unveiling.

Andrew J. Hawkins, the Verge:

This isn’t the first time Apple has promised multiscreen CarPlay interoperability. When it unveiled iOS 13 in September 2019, the company promised a major overhaul of CarPlay to bring it more in line with Google’s Android Auto.

This included the ability to support various-sized screens and display information on two different screens in the vehicle at the same time. “Automakers can develop CarPlay systems that show information in a second screen, such as in a cluster or HUD [heads up display],” the company said at the time. (Although that sentence no longer appears on Apple’s iOS 13 support page.)

Alex Hern, the Guardian:

The old joke was that cars were sold on the feel of the door slamming shut, rather than passenger safety or fuel economy; the new truth appears to be that more important than either of those are the size and shape of the in-car entertainment system — a fact that Apple is pleased to promote, noting that: “CarPlay is available on over 98% of cars in the US [and] 79% of US buyers would only consider a car that works with CarPlay.”

But not one word of Schubert’s presentation addressed the safety ramifications of fitting ever-larger screens in cars, nor opening up a bevy of customisation options for users. (Apple sent me a holding email and ignored my questions asking if the company had researched the issue before embarking on development.)

I am optimistic about many things that were announced at WWDC this year, but this CarPlay update has me concerned.

I most often walk in Calgary, driving a couple times per week and cycling occasionally in the spring and summer. Frequently, I find myself dodging drivers who are too distracted to be able to remain moving in a straight line, maintain speed, or watch out for others. I am especially aware of this as a pedestrian. I nearly get killed or injured more often than I would like, no matter how safe I am.

There are only a handful of studies that have attempted to assess the safety of phone mirroring software. One in 2018, with just twenty-four participants, found CarPlay and Android Auto to be safer than carmakers’ own systems for things like changing songs or getting directions, but a 2020 study with forty participants found phone-based systems impair drivers as much as legal alcohol limits. At best, these systems are probably better than manufacturers’ own, but still create significant distraction for drivers and elevated risk for others.

I have noticed this for myself, too. I use CarPlay in a car with a touch screen located in the centre stack. It is nice to be able to play music from my own library instead of listening to the radio or fiddling with a CD changer. But actually finding music in my moderately large library or on Apple Music is a task I reserve for a passenger or when I am parked. It is simply too dangerous to be glancing at artist and album titles while driving in most normal conditions.

Please do not text and drive.