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Apple CarPlay to bring iPhone interface to cars

Next step in smart-phone integration begins with the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Last updated: March 07, 2014 03:15 PM

Apple has announced its next big thing: “CarPlay.” The system will mirror some of the smart-phone apps on the car’s screen to allow drivers to make calls, use Maps, listen to music, and access messages with a simple touch, or use Siri for voice control activated by a steering wheel button. The new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, due this fall, will be the first production car to offer CarPlay.

After Mercedes, the CarPlay is due to appear in Volvos and Ferraris, and Apple says it is also working with BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota for future systems.

CarPlay is compatible with iOS 7, and it works on the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s.

Like many drivers, the team at Consumer Reports has found it frustrating to deal with a wide variety of complicated in-car infotainment systems. Some are better than others.

And we often find ourselves asking, why can’t this be as simple as it is on a smart phone, only up high on a big screen where we can see and reach it? Now Apple, the company known for transforming how we live our lives, is stepping in to answer that question.

We currently have a 2014 Honda Civic EX in our test fleet that uses Siri Eyes-Free, an earlier version of Siri integration. You hold down the voice command button on the steering wheel and the familiar Siri “chime” sounds. You then ask Siri whatever you want, and Siri confirms what you want to do and then does it. We’ve used it to make phone calls, find points of interest, and then have apple maps give us turn-by-turn directions, read and respond to text messages, pick music, and even set appointments or reminders on the calendar.

But we’ve found that on our Civic, if you so much as activate the turn signal in the middle of talking to Siri, it cancels the Siri interaction and you have to start over again.

The Apple announcement is only the latest step in the development of new automotive infotainment interfaces developed by smart phone designers. Last week, Ford announced that a division of BlackBerry would develop the next generation of MyFord Touch, which has also proved troublesome for our Ford-owning readers.

—Eric Evarts and Mike Leung

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