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Apple's CarPlay to help car owners use iPhone more freely while driving

CarPlay enables iPhones to plug into cars so drivers can call up maps, play music and make calls on a vehicle's dashboard screen.

Michael Liedtkeand Tom Krisher | March 4, 2014 | Updated 12:50 IST
Apple's CarPlay brings iPhones and cars closer
(PHOTO: Reuters)

Apple is accelerating the race to make smartphone applications easier and safer to use in cars.

The tech giant on Monday announced its new technology "CarPlay" that enables iPhones to plug into cars so drivers can call up maps, make calls and request music with voice commands or a touch on a vehicle's dashboard screen.

CarPlay requires Apple's latest mobile software, iOS 7, and an iPhone 5, 5C or 5S.

"IPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing.

Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are previewing the new technology this week at an auto show in Geneva.

Automakers are hoping vehicles that are compatible with the top-selling smartphones will be easier to sell to consumers who can't fathom living without the devices.

Cars of recent vintage increasingly feature electronics designed to cater to drivers' high-tech desires, but those systems still haven't attracted a widespread following. That has led more automakers to conclude that it makes sense to work directly with technology companies such as Apple and Google to turn their cars into smartphone extensions.

Ferrari is previewing CarPlay on its four-wheel-drive FF model. Volvo plans to feature the iPhone system in its redesigned Volvo XC90 sports utility vehicle. Mercedes-Benz isn't disclosing which models will get CarPlay, but expects both its S-Class large sedan and C-Class midsize sedan should be compatible with the system.

A long list of other automakers, including General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Honda, also are drawing up plans for CarPlay, according to Apple.

Ford said it will deploy CarPlay as one of several options for making its cars work more smoothly with smartphones. The automaker already features a voice-control system called "Sync" made by Microsoft Corp in some of its cars. Ford also offers its own touch-screen technology in its vehicles.

The different choices are designed to ensure "you don't have to make a $30,000 decision about what car you're going to buy based on your $200 smartphone," said Raj Nair, Ford's global product development chief.

Apple announced its automobile ambitions nine months ago when it unveiled its "iOS in the Car" initiative - a reference to the operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad. Now that the idea is moving closer to reality, Apple renamed the technology "CarPlay".

Apple's iOS mobile software and Google's Android operating system power most of the smartphones in the world.

The partnerships with car companies give Apple an early lead over Google's loosely knit family of Android phones in a duel to make mobile applications more accessible while drivers are behind the wheel.

Just two months ago, Google Inc announced it is working with several major automakers to turn Android phones into an essential part of cars. Google hopes to finish work on its system for tethering Android phones to cars by the end of this year.

By making smartphones work more seamlessly with automobiles, both Apple and Google are hoping to immerse their services even deeper into peoples' lives. In doing so, the companies expect to make money by selling advertising, applications and upgrades on smartphones that will become even more indispensable.

So far, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Audi have signed up for Google's "Open Automotive Alliance" for Android.

GM and Honda declined to comment on their CarPlay plans.

(Associated Press)

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