Report: Apple Wants iPhone to Have More Control Over Cars

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Most of us have synced our phones to a vehicle to play music, unwittingly funneling personal information to the manufacturer in the process. But only an elite few have used their mobile device to digitally summon an automobile out of a garage or remotely tell it to pre-condition interior temperatures to the desired specification. However, that’s likely going to be the future and Apple would very much like to be leading the charge.

The tech giant is reportedly developing a way to better integrate smartphones with cars by accessing systems that are currently unavailable to CarPlay. Apple’s new program, internally known as IronHeart, seeks to collaborate with automakers so that its phones can network with vehicles in new and interesting ways. It’s effectively CarPlay 2.0 and sounds as though it would be giving the company access to just about every item drivers might interface with on a daily basis. 

According to Automotive News, those systems include interior and exterior temperature and humidity readings, interior climate zones, defroster/AC settings, audio settings, radio, seat controls, radar equipment, cameras, speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, and more.

From AN:

By gaining access to controls and instruments, Apple could turn CarPlay into an interface that could span nearly the entire car. The data also could be used by Apple or third parties to create new kinds of apps or add features to existing functions.

Some Apple users have complained about the need to jump between CarPlay and a car’s built-in system to manage key controls. This initiative would alleviate that friction.

The effort would be similar to Apple’s approach to health and home technology. The company offers an app on the iPhone that can access and aggregate data from external health devices using its HealthKit protocol. The Home app, meanwhile, uses Apple’s HomeKit system to control smart appliances, including thermostats, security cameras and door locks.

IronHeart would represent Apple’s strongest push into cars since CarPlay was released in 2014, but it may not be a hit with automakers. They could be reluctant to hand over control of key features to Apple. While CarPlay is now in more than 600 car models, other Apple initiatives launched in recent years have been slower to catch on with automakers.

While I couldn’t say whether IronHeart is going to take off and get the kind of support it needs from the industry, connectivity features feel like may have already reached their zenith. Wirelessly transferring my playlist is handy and the same is true for sending my desired navigational tools over to the central screen. However, syncing with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto will also launch an unpleasant onslaught of chimes in this unnecessary attempt to notify me of every single message I’ve received while driving. It’s constantly encouraging me to interact with my phone when it probably should be switched to the “Do Not Disturb” setting by default and has encouraged me to use a stick with the AUX input for music whenever I’m not intentionally testing the multimedia system. I have similarly never once been excited to unlock a vehicle using my smartphone or (if I owned one) Apple Watch.

But the iPhone remains the company’s most profitable product by far, so it has a vested interest in keeping it in the game as often as possible. For every automaker that builds a proprietary system or partners with someone else on connectivity features, Apple risks losing money and access to consumer data. We’re reaching a point where manufacturers are testing things like wireless fuel payments and direct integration with voice-controlled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, Echo, and Google Home. If Steve Jobs were alive today, he’d undoubtedly be telling his team to get in on that while simultaneously trying to figure out a way to take credit for the original premise.

Yours truly may find that a piece of paper works better than asking a box connected to the internet what he wanted from the store. But the fact remains that home devices and digital assistants are insanely popular. Every family member I have owns one, despite all of them expressing severe privacy concerns whenever I am around. Apple is able to leverage that seemingly unstoppable trend as it moves into automobiles could make it vast sums of money. But vehicle manufactures have also realized that consumer data is worth something and might be less inclined to give the company access. They’re building data centers and mobile apps of their own now and could soon find themselves offering everything IronHeart had hoped to.

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