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Apple Bending to Please Automakers With Next-Gen Of CarPlay

In April ChannelNews reported that Mercedes-Benz decided that it wasn’t going to adopt the next-generation version of Apple CarPlay within its cars.

The breaking point, it seemed, was Apple seemingly wanting to control core functions of the vehicle like the HVAC, as well as the speedometer and odometer.

While the next-gen version of the Apple CarPlay has been spoken about for the last two years, we’ve had some major updates emerge from the WWDC 2024 last week.

The videos released by Apple emphasise that automakers will have more control over how things look and work and can even use their own interfaces for various features using something called “punch-through UI.” The result is an approach to CarPlay that’s much less “Apple runs your car” and much more “Apple built a design toolkit for automakers to use however they want,” reported The Verge.

At the moment, CarPlay is a second monitor for your phone — you connect to your car, and your phone sends a video stream to the car display.

To integrate things like speedometers and climate controls, CarPlay needs to collect data from your car, display it in real-time, and control various features like HVAC directly. Hence, for the next-gen CarPlay, Apple’s split things into what it calls “layers,” some of which run on your iPhone while others run locally on the car so they don’t break if your phone disconnects.

There are two layers that run locally on the car. The “overlay UI” has things such as turn signals and the odometer in it, and the “local UI,” which has things like your speedometer and tachometer that need to constantly update in real-time. Automakers can customise the gauge styles and layouts, from analogue to digital, and can include their logos on it too.

Ideally, Apple would like the new-gen of CarPlay to start as soon as the driver opens their door. The assets for these local UI elements are loaded onto the car from your phone during the pairing process.

Then, there’s what Apple calls “remote UI,” which is what runs on your phone: maps, music, trip info. This is similar to the functions available within existing version of CarPlay, except that the new gen will run on any other screen in your car.

The final layer is called “punch-through UI,” and it’s where Apple is making concessions to automakers in order to win them over. Instead of coming up with its own interface ideas for things like backup cameras and advanced driver-assistance features, Apple’s allowing carmakers to feed their existing systems through to CarPlay.

Carmakers can use punch-through UI for anything they want and even deep-link CarPlay buttons to their own interfaces.

A hardware button could pick drive modes could send a user to either CarPlay settings, deep-link you into the automaker’s iPhone app, or just open the native car settings:

Apple’s decision to back away from integrating itself with HVAC controls and instead allowing carmakers to customise controls from a toolkit to match the car system seems like a tradeoff it is willing to make in order to increase enthusiasm for the product.

All of this is supported at 60fps (or higher) by a new dedicated UI timing channel.

With the latest concessions that Apple is making, it’s looking to significantly broaden the adoption of its upcoming technology among carmakers. Thus far, only Aston Martin and Porsche have indicated that they’ll ship cars with the new CarPlay system, although Apple itself is yet to comment on when specifically it plans to release its next-gen CarPlay.

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