Apple just dropped news of a massive update coming to its Apple CarPlay system. It means you will be able to take over multiple screens in your car and customise them how you wish. It will essentially enable you to control all of the car's systems from your iPhone or iPad.
Why is this a big deal? Because it points to the future of how we'll interact with our cars, and predominantly our electric cars. My first thoughts go to the rumoured Apple Car – which may go into production as early as 2024. The prominence of the Apple CarPlay slot at the WWDC 2022 event keynote suggests the Californian tech giant believes this is a big part of the future, and how we'll use Apple iOS.
To date Apple CarPlay has been a bit of a novelty, with it used to control the infotainment screen and basic data, such as your music and sat nav details. But now Apple CarPlay will be used to control the entire instrument cluster – it will control every aspect of your car. That's big.
Apple is in talks with major manufacturers – including Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Honda – to bring Apple CarPlay and iOS to their cars. This is a next-gen system that will integrate iOS into every part of running a car; Apple's data will tap into every system to show speed, fuel level, operating temperatures and more. While this will be good news for car-owning Apple fans, it also looks a lot like Apple is testing the waters for how iOS can be integrated into its own car.
Of course, this being Apple, design is a major part of Apple CarPlay. You'll be able to tweak and fiddle with the look and feel of your car's display. At the WWDC 2022 keynote event Apple showed screens that replicated the look of classic cars to modern high-end roadsters; you may drive a Nissan but inside it can look like a Ferrari.
Big tech companies like Apple entering the car space is generally seen as a positive move, as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay become more common in our cars. But this could water down the branding of the car you own; what does this kind of deep customisation mean for brands such as Honda and BMW that have distinct styles of their own?
My guess is this will lead to design tie-ins and updates as major manufacturers hire leading artists and agencies to create looks inside Apple CarPlay. And why not be able to make your new Mercedes look like a classic 1970s Mercedes? Anything that opens up a new space for designers and artists to express themselves shouldn't be dismissed.
There's clearly a struggle coming as brands fight to own the experience and identity of their cars, as CarPlay and Android Auto grows in use. It also raises questions if the Apple Car itself will have a distinct identity – though I'd jump at the chance to drive a car with an interior that resembles a purple iMac G3. In the meantime, for a car with a lot of identity, just take a look at the Pokémon Mini Cooper.