What Is Apple CarPlay, What Does It Do and Why Is It Important?

Apple CarPlay, one of the two main ways to integrate your phone's functions into your car along with Android Auto, is getting an update this year to delve deeper into a car's systems.

At the 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week Apple said that the next version will be able to show your speed and change your climate settings, along with controlling the radio and other functions normally reserved for the car's native system.

Apple CarPlay started as an idea called iPod Out, which was developed by BMW and Apple as a way for the car's infotainment to "host" the Apple interface. The idea was to make the touchscreen mirror a phone, which would make it easier for owners to use and understand while driving. It was first announced at the WWDC event in 2010 and was shipped with BMW vehicles in 2011.

The earliest phone an Apple CarPlay system can use is the iPhone 5 running operating system 7.1 or later.

A few years later at WWDC 2013 Apple changed the name to "iOS in the Car," it was then rebranded as Apple CarPlay in 2014 and Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz were the first to get that version of the tech.

Apple Worldwide Developer Conference
Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks about CarPlay on stage during Apple's World Wide Developers Conference. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

The system is now available for almost every car on the market. EV company Rivian is still a holdout, as is Tesla, though owners can set up a workaround found on one of the many forums. Some offer it as standard equipment; some charge for it and some only charge for wireless CarPlay, an advancement that came more recently.

That wireless connection came around when iOS 9 was released, which allowed manufacturers to load the apps that users were allowed to use. Some, like email reading, have been deemed too distracting while on the road. iOS 10 added audio playback and recording of messages. iOS 12 added Google Maps and Waze, a boon for those that don't like Apple Maps.

A big update came during iOS 13. CarPlay got a Dashboard screen separate from the home screen. It also added the calendar, light and dark modes, a Do Not Disturb function and a few more. The next version added wallpapers and the ability to fun food ordering and parking apps. And iOS 15 updated Apple Maps.

Next year Apple will be taking over the whole dashboard, and if the tech giant makes it easier to see and analyze more information faster while taking your eyes off the road for a shorter period of time, that's all the better.