CarPlay Experience in Teslas Has Become So Good That Rivian Owners Drool Over It

Apple CarPlay on Tesla MCU2 13 photos
Photo: Tesla Android Project
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Tesla Android Project made a significant step forward with its Tesla CarPlay integration, as it now offers a plug-and-play device and vastly improved software. This makes CarPlay and Android Auto integration in Tesla EVs as good as the native experience on other car models. The project has now caught the attention of Rivian owners.
Although die-hard fans swear that Tesla software is so good that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be a subpar experience, many wish Tesla would offer the option. Of course, Tesla doesn't want that, as it tries to keep the data all to itself. It's also less likely to start offering these features after going for years without them. The same goes for Rivian, which is also deaf to its customers' requests for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The two leading smartphone projection tools are the de facto solutions for connecting the phone to the car. They allow drivers to replace in-car apps and navigation with vastly superior solutions provided by Google, Apple, and other tech companies. A recent survey showed that most people prefer them over integrated solutions, and many would refuse to buy a car that doesn't feature Android Auto or Apple CarPlay interfaces.

Some Tesla owners have started to search for third-party solutions due to the lack of Apple CarPlay support, although none is perfect. One that has come quite far on this road is the Tesla Android Project, which sounds bizarre given that it's the best solution for Apple CarPlay. The project leader, developer Michal Gapinski, figured that a hardware module (a Raspberry Pi board) could create a special Wi-Fi network to which the Tesla infotainment system connects. It then allows the built-in browser to access new features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

For years, the Tesla Android Project seemed more like a complicated workaround, requiring both hardware and software knowledge to make it work. And it wasn't very good to begin with, given the limitations of running apps in-browser. However, a major step forward was made in the spring when the project was ported to Android 13. The software improvements included multi-touch support, a new audio engine, and a hardware display encoder, among other things.

Still, the most crucial improvement has just been announced. On the hardware front, the Tesla Android Project now runs on a plug-and-play device called Compute Module 4 Bundle. This packs all the necessary hardware, including an LTE modem and the CarPlay module. It also bakes in future-proofing, thanks to an NVME/PCI-E slot that can be used to expand storage. Connectivity is boosted by adding external Wi-Fi antennas. Previously, you had to buy these parts separately and figure out how to connect them and make them play nicely.

Software-wise, the Tesla Android Project now runs the 2023.40.1 software version, introducing a new Virtual Display. This is much faster, offering a fluid experience on MCU2 infotainment systems. You can run any Android app, and the native GPS support means you can run Waze on your Tesla's display. The sweetest deal is the Apple CarPlay support, which has gotten much faster. Michal Gapinski says the new software lowers the CPU usage by up to 500%.

A couple of videos shared on social media show that the new update is just as good as a native Apple CarPlay integration. This attracted the attention of Rivian owners, who decry the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support in their vehicles. There's one difference with Rivian EVs, which would make porting the Android Project much more difficult: they don't have a web browser. It isn't impossible to run a browser inside the Rivian infotainment system, but it's certainly not as easy as porting the Android Project's box.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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