Apple CarPlay

CarPlay is Apple’s standard for connecting an iPhone with the car’s infotainment system. It displays supported apps on the car’s built-in display and lets the user control them with Siri or the car’s controls. CarPlay’s purpose is to provide a safer way to use an iPhone while driving.

How does CarPlay work?

CarPlay links the iPhone with the car over a USB cable or wirelessly. The wireless connection is established through a two-way Wi-Fi connection by exchanging network credentials over Bluetooth. If the car doesn’t support wireless CarPlay, a dongle adapter can be used to enable a wireless connection to the system’s USB port. When connected, most of the software still runs on the iPhone. The car’s infotainment system is used for display and audio output.

CarPlay-enabled apps

To make sure that CarPlay isn’t a distraction on the road, Apple only allows certain types of apps to work through it. These are:

  • Navigation apps such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze
  • Messaging and calling apps such as Phone, Messages, and WhatsApp
  • Audio apps such as Apple Music, Audible, and Spotify
  • Apps published by car manufacturers to enable the control of climate, see gas levels and other car-related information
  • Apps in categories like EV charging, parking, and quick food ordering such as ChargePoint, PlugShare, and Dunkin’

All of the CarPlay-enabled apps need to be driving-friendly. This means that it doesn’t include apps that are too distracting or require extended eye contact such as gaming and streaming apps. For road safety, the CarPlay-enabled messaging and calling apps need to work with third-party Siri support called SiriKit. With this, Siri can read out new messages and let the user send an audio message as a response without looking away from the road.

Cars that support CarPlay

According to Apple, more than 600 car models work with CarPlay. The list includes most major automakers’ models released after 2016 or 2017. Many new models have CarPlay and Android Auto as standard or optional equipment. The exception is Tesla, which offers its own connectivity package. On Apple’s website, you can see the official full list of compatible car models.

Future plans

During Apple’s annual developer conference WWDC 2022, Apple revealed plans to extend CarPlay to take over every screen and control in the car. This includes the main dashboard screen with the speedometer, gas/battery readout, and warning lights. Users will also be able to customize the displays with different themes, backgrounds, and widgets. Many manufacturers including Audi, Nissan, Volvo, and Land Rover have committed to bringing some form of expanded CarPlay to their models.

You can read more about Apple CarPlay and its features on its homepage.