In-car touchscreen systems aren't known for their great usability, but a new one modeled on Apple's iOS may prove a more worthwhile platform. CarPlay, designed by Apple in concert with car makers, was shown off by Volvo this week at the New York International Auto Show.
The interface will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used an iPhone or iPad before — especially iOS 7. Two rows of icons, in the usual rounded-square style, show the rather meager selection of apps you'll be able to use in the car. But even this limited list must be better than most ordinary in-dash systems.
The apps connect through the iPhone itself, and the interface only appears when you plug it in via Lightning cable. This means all your tracks and contacts are available, and a few other tricks are made possible as well.
Invoking Siri (there's a button on the steering wheel) will let you dictate a message or enter a location into the Apple Maps navigation system. Helpfully, addresses found in texts to you will be automatically added as possible destinations, so you won't have to fiddle with the phone to get late-arriving directions to a party or restaurant.
Don't expect the whole iOS experience, though. The CarPlay system will be limited to the few basic tasks that are approved of while driving: navigation, entertainment, and voice-based calls and texts. No checking Facebook or Tweeting about the traffic, at least until sufficiently safe methods for doing so are made available.
This version of CarPlay was running in Volvo's 2016 XC90, which, as the name indicates, isn't about to hit dealerships in the next few weeks. Volvo and other manufacturers will surely be sharing more details about the new in-car OS during the year or so before it hits the market.