If we're already spending way too much time focusing on our smartphones, will connecting them to our car's dashboard and display make for a smarter and safer driving experience, or will it just give us another way to distract ourselves while behind the wheel?
The recent announcement that Apple's "iOS in the car" setup, dubbed CarPlay, will be available in select 2014 car models, is sure to get the Apple fanboys and car tech enthusiasts all excited, and for good reason, as it could allow users to take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities while driving, without having to mount it to the dash or sneak glances at it as it sits in our lap while on the road.
According to Apple, CarPlay will enable the use of the car's built-in display for making phone calls, getting directions, listen to music, or send and receive messages while driving. The feature allows the use of voice control with Siri, or by using the car's touchscreen, or by using the knobs or buttons built into the car already, so the driver's eyes don't have to leave the road to access the features made possible with CarPlay.
The benefits of using the Maps and turn-by-turn directions functions of the iPhone when driving are many (assuming you can keep your eyes on the road and not on the screen), but the newest iteration will also access the addresses in users' emails, messages, calendars, and contacts, in order to predict where they will most likely want to go.
Many new cars have the option to connect your phone to the vehicle using Bluetooth, so that calls can be made or answered without pulling out the phone, but CarPlay takes that a step further by letting users dictate their text messages and send or receive them without having to attempt to 'thumb type' while driving.
Playing media from the iPhone in the car, including podcasts and iTunes Radio, will be easier than ever with CarPlay, as it puts access to artists, albums, playlists, and more, up front and center in the car's display, and CarPlay also supports other audio apps on the phone to expand the user's options while driving.
Apple says CarPlay will be available on select models in 2014 from Honda, Volvo, Hyundai, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar, and will become available on models from other marques in the near future, including Ford, Toyota, Subaru, Chevrolet, and more. CarPlay will become available as an update to iOS 7, and at the moment will only work with iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, and iPhone 5C (which have Lightning connectivity).
I'm generally a fan of technology that makes our tasks easier and more efficient, including in the car, but I'm a bit of a skeptic that this "iOS in the car" will make it any safer for drivers (or for the rest of the drivers on the road). One reason for that is that it can be hard enough to hold a phone conversation while driving in traffic, especially where high speeds and sketchy road conditions could turn one wrong move into a disaster. Another reason is that because so many of us are already hyper-connected, and chained to our smartphones most of the day, I think that making it easier to access our smartphones while driving is going to add to our already distracted tendencies, which could have deadly repercussions, considering we'll be behind the wheel of a large chunk of metal moving at high speeds, and any further distraction is probably not going to make it any safer for any of us.