Goodbye, Cables: Apple To Go All-In on CarPlay Wireless With Next-Generation Upgrade

The new-generation CarPlay will launch this year 13 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Apple
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The next-generation CarPlay experience is still nowhere to be seen, despite Apple unveiling it with much fanfare at WWDC 2022.
The company promised to share the first vehicle announcements by the end of 2023. These announcements indeed landed, but they made it to the web later than everybody anticipated. Apple revealed in the last days of 2023 that the first carmakers adopting CarPlay 2.0 would be Aston Martin and Porsche.

No further details were shared, and Apple, Aston Martin, and Porsche have all been tight-lipped since releasing these announcements.

This year's WWDC – Apple's developer conference – didn't include any stage time for CarPlay. Apple was all about AI, and the early iOS 18 testing builds shipped to developers confirmed that the upcoming operating system update will bring subtle refinements to CarPlay.

The new\-generation CarPlay
Photo: Apple via MacRumors
However, one of the sessions shared by Apple at WWDC included a closer look at the CarPlay design system. The detailed video, which I already discussed thoroughly last week, highlights one major feature of CarPlay 2.0: carmakers will have the technical means to customize the look and feel of the new operating system so they can retain their brand identity. The only component that won't be replaceable is the default font – Apple's San Francisco – which the company hopes to use as a way to tell CarPlay apart from other systems. The font will still offer customization options, but it'll be easy to spot when loading CarPlay, especially if you're a long-time Apple user or own other Apple devices, such as an iPhone.

In fact, owning an iPhone will be mandatory if you buy a vehicle with the new-generation CarPlay. This is because Apple has refused a strategy that Google already went all-in for Android Automotive: turning the software into a stand-alone operating system. CarPlay 2.0 will still be powered by an iPhone, and the big change is that wired connections won't be offered. It means the new-generation CarPlay will only work wirelessly, so you can say goodbye to cables in your car (albeit you might still keep them around if you want an extra charge while driving).

While Apple will kill off CarPlay wired with the next-generation upgrade, it's important to understand the existing version won't be affected. The current CarPlay experience will continue to be available with and without cables, depending on the support integrated by the car manufacturer in your vehicle.

The new\-generation CarPlay
Photo: Apple via MacRumors
Apple ditching cables makes sense from a stability and reliability perspective. Apple doesn't afford CarPlay to fail while running, as the system will take over critical vehicle systems. It'll run on all screens in the car, including the instrument cluster, so the iPhone maker aims for flawless connections. The company also wants CarPlay to load the moment you unlock the vehicle or open its door, and this wouldn't be possible with a cable.

Because reliability is so critical, Apple will use an approach that splits the resources available in your car into two parts. On the one hand, there is the so-called local UI, which includes components like the speedometer and the tachometer. These resources run on the car but come with multiple customization options, allowing frequent refreshes and updates – theoretically, carmakers could even update the look and feel of your speedometer with an update, albeit I doubt companies would invest big money in this direction, focusing mainly on new interfaces for new models.

The turn signals and the odometer are included in the overlay UI and come with limited options because they are critical to the driving experience. They include several customization options, but neither Apple nor the carmaker can mess with them much due to the risk of problems that could affect the experience behind the wheel.

The iPhone will be responsible for providing resources for apps, music, and everything else already available on CarPlay. The apps, including navigation software and music streaming, will continue to run on the iPhone.

The new\-generation CarPlay
Photo: Apple via MacRumors
When all of these come together, CarPlay 2.0 should offer (nearly) flawless stability and reliability. If the system crashes, the driver shouldn't lose any critical data, as the speedometer, the turn signals, the tachometer, and everything else on the instrument cluster will still be there – if anything, they could crash and lose the styling, possibly returning to a default look that every car would be fitted with.

The new CarPlay will only be available in new-generation vehicles, so you won't be able to install it in a car that shipped with the current version. It'll require deep vehicle integration, and Apple is working with every carmaker interested in adopting the system to customize the look and feel and make sure everything is working correctly.

The wireless switch is not surprising. Apple has previously considered launching an iPhone with no port, mainly to sidestep the EU's requirement to adopt USB-C. The company eventually abandoned the idea, bringing USB-C to the iPhone, albeit it's unknown if the company has also given up on this plan completely.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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