All Articles
All Articles

Apple CarPlay


Apple CarPlay

The groundbreaking portable in-car OS features seamless smartphone integration, intuitive user interface and regular software updates

by Josh Rubin
on 05 March 2014

Automakers have always pushed to keep in step with advancements in consumer technology, from the first car radios to the integration of touchscreen navigation and infotainment systems. At the same time, in-car technology is notorious for not being upgradable—as the devices we use change and evolve, our in-car systems remain the same as the day we drove off the lot. Now, with the launch of Apple CarPlay, all of that is going to change. The simultaneously simple and groundbreaking new system presents a sea change in the way we see onboard operating systems: what were once set in stone systems will now evolve with over-the-air software updates just as our phones do. As smartphones become ubiquitous, the quest to create seamless integrations that are safe and easy to use has produced some mixed results, now an in-car infotainment system matches the intuitive user experience of the iPhone. Released 3 March 2014 at the Geneva Auto Show, Apple's CarPlay is sending the tech and auto worlds into a flurry of excitement. We were able to experience CarPlay firsthand as well as catch up with some of key team members behind the new technology from both Apple and early integrator and the sole premium German automaker to use the technology in 2014, Mercedes-Benz.


"We take care that we have all the prerequisites in the car," says Ralf Lamberti, Director of Telematics at Mercedes-Benz of the integration process, "in that we have all of the software protocols and hardware that we need to get the the video stream out of the iPhone to the bigger screen using H.264 decoding." Another major aspect of the software integration is ensuring that all the different "languages" of feedback speak to the onboard system. "Google is working on the same exact thing," says Lamberti though no date or specific details are available, so the command and control signals—whether it's touch screen or rotating knob (which work equally well on the CarPlay models on display) for either operating system. Luckily, Lamberti suspects car buyers won't be forced to chose between Apple or Google versions when shopping for their future C-Class. "The ultimate goal is to have it [Apple and Google interfaces] in one device, but this is still in discussion from a technical point of view." While time will tell on the cross platform usability between different operating systems, iPhone users will be able to easily plug their iPhone into a CarPlay equipped ride, whether it's your everyday C-Class or a rental, simply plug in and go.

"Usability is even more important in the car because you don't have mental time to figure something out, it's gotta be pretty obvious how to do something." -Greg Joswiak, Apple's Vice President of Marketing for iPhone and iOS

CarPlay maintains Apple's reputation for out of the box usability. The user experience largely mimics that of the iPhone in hand, however special care and design alterations have been made to ensure safety and optimal use in a dashboard setting. Our one-on-one demonstration with Apple revealed this redesign of the major functions in demand when behind the wheel: navigation, music, messaging and last but not least—making and receiving calls. But CarPlay is also scalable—app developers will be able to build driver-usable interfaces like we've already seen from Spotify, Beats and Stitcher.


"There are things that people do with their phones in the car that they shouldn't, in a way that distracts them," says Apple's Vice President of Marketing for iPhone and iOS Products, Greg Joswiak. "What we wanted to do was come up with a safer smarter and more fun way to use your iPhone in the car." Joswiak and his team optimized those major functions, specifically engineering each function for CarPlay while keeping intact the general user experience architecture from the iPhone. "We want to build on what people are familiar with, we want to have that intuitive progression of thought as to how things work, but we want to optimize it for the fact that you're in a car, keeping in mind the idea that you don't want to take your eyes off the road for more than a few seconds at a time."


The Maps function of CarPlay is a great example of the this design philosophy. The enhanced screen size in CarPlay (which varies between makes and models) allows for side-by-side point location viewing with step-by-step navigation directions, allowing the driver to simultaneously view their relative position as well as directions without straining. Additionally, address entry pre-populates with recent locations mentioned in your emails, texts. Meaning it's unlikely that you'll have manually enter an address, Siri will simply catch your drift early on and send you on your way based on your digital footprint. Looking for a Greek restaurant, post office or dry cleaner? Simply ask for it and Siri will find a list nearby.


As with nearly all CarPlay functions, Siri is your major point of contact. In the messaging function, Siri both reads messages as well as takes dictation for composing new ones. To avoid driver distraction, the text of messages both incoming and outgoing does not appear on the screen. While all CarPlay models offer voice command via Siri, models vary with other modes of control between knob control, touch screen or a dual system of each. The C-Class comes equipped with a Command Control dial in the center column, where the user cycles though options and "clicks" to select a function. While different than the more open-ended touchscreen option available in both Ferrari and Volvo's CarPlay implementation, it is still intuitive for iPhone users and both are equally effective navigation methods and it is familiar to Mercedes owners who already use the Command Control for other in-car functions.


CarPlay might come off to regular iPhone and iOS users as incredibly simple—yet in fact this is the purpose entirely. Each function of the CarPlay—from maps to music—is designed to be an extension of what's been in your pocket for years, with minor specialized design and user experience tweaks for behind the wheel. Regarding the design process Jos notes that "things are complex when you start, and it's only after a long time that you've worked on them that they become simple." Check out CarPlay in action from our demo at the auto show.

Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community
Loading More...