While several new software features and developers’ tools took center stage during the opening keynote address for Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, the Cupertino, California-based company also had several CarPlay-equipped vehicles on hand to demonstrate its recently rebranded in-vehicle device integration system. As noted by USA Today, the vehicles displayed by Apple at San Francisco’s Moscone Center included a Ferrari, a 1965 Ford (NYSE:F) Mustang, and a Chevrolet Spark. The inclusion of the Chevrolet Spark was especially intriguing, since General Motors (NYSE:GM) has yet to announce any concrete plans to release a CarPlay-equipped vehicle this year.
Apple unveiled its CarPlay system in March at the Geneva Motor Show. Apple said in a press release that Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo all had plans to immediately debut cars with built-in CarPlay compatibility. Meanwhile, “additional auto manufacturers bringing CarPlay to their drivers down the road” included BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.
Since CarPlay was originally unveiled as a built-in option for only a few new vehicles made by luxury carmakers, the inclusion of a Chevrolet Spark equipped with CarPlay at the WWDC suggests Apple’s in-vehicle system may be coming to new, lower-priced vehicles sooner than expected. This would presumably boost the long-term viability of Apple’s platform, since the majority of cars sold are not luxury vehicles. 9to5Mac reports that this also means Chevrolet could be the first automaker to debut CarPlay in a fully electric vehicle, since the model is also available as an all-electric version in the Spark EV.
Although it was not clear if the CarPlay-equipped 1965 Ford Mustang at WWDC was a one-of-a-kind Ford concept, it should be noted that CarPlay will soon also be available as an aftermarket option for older vehicles. Both Pioneer and Alpine have Carplay-compatible aftermarket infotainment systems in the works, reports Macworld. The option to install CarPlay into older vehicles will further increase the potential size of Apple’s CarPlay user base.
According to a recent Apple press release, the Siri-powered CarPlay system allows users to make calls, listen to messages, and dictate responses, all without using their hands. Users also have the option to enhance any Apple Maps shown on the dashboard display by having Siri provide spoken, turn-by-turn directions. The music stored on a user’s iPhone or in iCloud is made available in the vehicle through CarPlay. Users can also stream music through iTunes Radio and other third-party apps. CarPlay requires an iPhone 5 or higher with iOS 7.1 or later installed.
The CarPlay system could eventually become an important component of Apple’s overall ecosystem. In-vehicle infotainment systems that are able to seamlessly integrate with consumers’ mobile devices are a growing trend in the automotive industry, according to market research firm ABI Research. ABI Research predicted that almost half of all in-vehicle infotainment systems will use Apple’s system by 2018. With a CarPlay-equipped Chevrolet Spark on display at the WWDC, it appears that the widespread use of Apple’s in-vehicle system may happen even earlier than originally predicted.