WWDC 2022

Next-gen CarPlay isn’t an Apple Car, but it might feel like one

Apple teased a more all-encompassing version of CarPlay at WWDC 2022 that does more than just display information.

Next generation CarPlay on the instrument cluster

At WWDC 2022, Apple showed off some surprising improvements to CarPlay that might give a hint at how the long-rumored Apple Car might feel to use — if it ever becomes a real product.

Hardware integration — The next generation of CarPlay is taking the in-car interface beyond just displaying the information on your phone, to actual hardware integration with your car. Apple says you’ll be able to control your radio, adjust your AC, and view car data like fuel level or speed, all without leaving next-gen CarPlay.

Apple is prepping a version of CarPlay that can take advantage of all the extra screens cars have these days.Apple

Apple’s also changing how CarPlay looks, displaying the interface on multiple different screens and multiple different sizes of screen, depending on what your car has. That means for cars made by automakers who’ve partnered with Apple, you could see Apple-customized speedometers and gauges behind your wheel, and widgets for your favorite apps on your dashboard. Apple’s implementation seems very modular, and strangely, very Apple Watch-like in all of the visual ways the new CarPlay is able to change.

The CarPlay of the future.Apple
The CarPlay of the present.Apple

Android Automotive — At this point, next-gen CarPlay is starting to seem like its own independent operating system, which wouldn’t be too different from what Google is cooking up with Android Automotive.

Automotive is Google’s in-car operating system that runs independently of your Android phone — basically Android for cars. Android Auto is more like CarPlay in that it requires your phone to be connected to your car to work. Apple seems to be transitioning CarPlay from something like Auto to something like Automotive, though questions remain about pretty much everything involved in making that happen.

What’s next — Apple says it plans to share more information about next-gen CarPlay “in the future” and that the first cars that support it will be announced late next year, but for now, we can don our tin caps and indulge in some Apple Conspiracy Brain.

One of the longstanding questions about the Apple Car project (which mind you has never been announced or mentioned by Apple) is whether the company has given up on making actual automotive hardware in favor of just offering self-driving software to other car makers.

Today’s reveal of the future of CarPlay could hint at which way Apple’s leaning. At least for now, the relationship Apple is cultivating with car makers (and cars in general) is all about software. The new CarPlay could make using your car feel as easy and helpful as using your iPhone. Maybe someday one of these next-gen CarPlay partners makes the first Apple Car, but for now, Apple seems like it’s providing an elegant solution for an in-car OS, and that’s more than enough.