CarPlay in iOS 16 and beyond: how Apple wants to take over your car

Apple CarPlay has been something of a game-changer for drivers. It dates all the way back to 2010 with a feature called iPod Out for iOS 4. It was jointly developed by Apple and BMW’s North American team back then but has since evolved. Today, CarPlay is not only a way to connect your phone to your car’s infotainment system for playing music or making hands-free phone calls - it’s an entire ecosystem of apps designed to take over every screen in your car, allowing new levels of personalisation.

At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2022 (WWDC22), the Cupertino giant detailed new features for CarPlay coming to iPhones with the release of iOS 16 this autumn. More exciting, though, was the sneak preview we were given of the next generation of Apple CarPlay. Here’s everything that’s new with Apple CarPlay in iOS 16 and beyond.

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Multi-stop routes in Maps

One of the coolest new features coming to Apple CarPlay this autumn is multi-stop routes. Previously, if you wanted to plan a road trip with several stop-offs, the easiest way to do it was simply to navigate to each stop one by one. Now, thanks to multi-trip routes, you can plan your whole road trip ahead of time. You can even plan your road trip on your Mac and send it to your iPhone for CarPlay. In terms of car-sharing, this is great if you are driving on the minute rate and don’t want to waste time messing with your navigation on the road.

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Improvements to Messages

Siri can already write and send messages for you while you are at the wheel, but with iOS 16 it feels much more fluid. You no longer have to manually confirm sending messages. Siri will now automatically send your message after it has checked the content with you. If you remain silent after this check, Siri will assume everything’s ok and hit send. This works for both voice messages and written text messages. It feels more like a real conversation than before.

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Podcasts is getting revamped

One of the biggest reasons drivers love CarPlay is being able to take their podcasts on the road with them - podcasts are the new radio, after all. With iOS 16, the first-party Apple Podcasts app now lets you see your downloaded episodes, as well as search for the latest episodes of podcasts you follow, all while connected to CarPlay. This is really just Apple playing catch up with the Spotify CarPlay app, but it’s still nice to have these features come across for the diehard Apple Podcasts users. Apple’s first-party app is also the way to go if you are only interested in podcasts and not music, as it does not require a subscription.

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Apple CarPlay's future redesign

The most exciting thing coming to CarPlay will not be dropping with iOS 16, but that didn’t stop Apple from teasing its upcoming redesign. They’re calling this the ‘next generation of CarPlay’. The biggest change is that CarPlay will work with all the screens in your car. Now, CarPlay takes over your infotainment screen only. But cars like the Honda e and newer, all-electric cars have many screens. Apple wants to take over your HUD too, replacing the speedometer and so on. You will be able to choose different themes and designs. Widgets everywhere! The first compatible cars will be announced in late 2023, which means we probably won’t see this until 2024.

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Total control through CarPlay

The next generation of CarPlay will not stop at taking over your car’s screens though, Apple wants control over things like AC, radio controls, heated seats, etc. It’s coming for you, the Peugeot i-Cockpit! The idea is to be able to customise your entire in-car experience, so you can do everything from the CarPlay interface and never use the car’s UI. This does, however, mean that your speed, steering inputs and other data are handled by your iPhone, and the data involved here is a goldmine for an insurance company looking for liability. However, Apple has stressed that this takeover of your car’s entire UI is done in a “privacy-friendly” way.

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Which cars will support it?

Several major manufacturers have pledged support for this feature, including Ford, Honda, Audi, Polestar, Mercedes and Porsche. Apple says that manufacturers around the world are excited to bring this new vision of car play to its customers, but it is striking how much power Apple has over the old stalwarts of the car industry. CarPlay is coming to render entire departments of these companies null and void. What does Ford do with its Sync 3 infotainment software solution, once CarPlay takes over absolutely everything? It’s going to be really interesting to see how this plays out in 2024 and beyond.

Why, you might wonder, would car giants like those be so quick to hand over control of their own software and UI to Apple? The answer lies in the popularity of CarPlay in America. In the USA, 79% of new car buyers would only consider buying a car if it supported CarPlay - according to Apple, which announced the figure on stage during the reveal of the new CarPlay. And that’s CarPlay 1.0 - the limited version we have now. This consumer power is only going to get bigger with the next generation of Apple CarPlay. Car companies feel they have little choice but to hand over their UIs to Apple. The interesting thing will be how the more modern, software-driven EV companies such as Tesla and Rivian handle this. They will feel they can compete with Apple at the ‘pixel level’, where traditional carmakers clearly cannot. And where does this leave Android Auto, CarPlay’s biggest competitor? The road ahead is unknown, but it will be an exciting journey.

David McCourt

David McCourt

Sr. Editorial Content Strategist

"Own less, share more."

David is on a mission to improve the quality of life in cities through modern mobility solutions.