Automakers integrate Apple’s iOS in the Car to minimize driver distraction, increase customer satisfaction

“By year end carbuyers will be able to choose from several vehicles that incorporate Apple’s iPhone functions, using Siri voice controls for navigation, texting, e-mails and music,” Alan Ohnsman and Andy Fixmer report for Bloomberg. “Knowing many consumers already use iPhones as cheap substitutes for built-in navigation systems, automakers are working to incorporate Apple’s technology to minimize driver distraction and increase customer satisfaction. Apple’s Siri is already built into General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Spark and Sonic small cars, where it has garnered less-than-rave reviews.”

“Those models use Cupertino, California-based Apple’s iOS 6 operating system in the dashboard head unit — the core of the car’s stereo — eliminating the need for separate navigation devices,” Ohnsman and Fixmer report. “Next, Apple’s iOS 7 software will be fully integrated into models made by GM, Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., Apple said last month. Icons familiar on iPhones and iPads will migrate to the center console screen in cars. ‘It’s something that people want, and I think that Apple can do this in a unique way and better than anyone else,’ Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a July 23 conference call. ‘It’s a key focus for us.'”

Ohnsman and Fixmer report, “Apple announced plans for Siri Eyes Free capability two years ago, and cars with that option are arriving now. That suggests… that the more elaborate integration steps Apple discussed in June won’t appear until 2015, he said. Honda, Hyundai, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volkswagen AG’s Audi, Toyota Motor Corp. and the Chrysler Group LLC are also adding Siri Eyes Free capability in models that arrive this year.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: These systems are integral to the vehicle and to user satisfaction (look at Ford suffering in satisfaction ratings mainly because they stupidly shackled themselves to Microsoft). One of the main criteria for millions of intelligent vehicle buyers already is, “How well does this vehicle accept my iPhone/iPad/iPad mini/iPod touch?” Soon it will be, “is this car powered by Apple’s iOS?”

Related articles:
Why Apple is planning aggressive 2014 launch for ‘iOS in the Car’ – July 26, 2013
Why Tim Cook described Apple’s iOS in the Car strategy as ‘very important’ – July 25, 2013
Apple has its eyes on automakers with ‘iOS in the Car’ – July 5, 2013
Ford plummets to 27th in J.D. Power vehicle quality rankings on Microsoft-developed ‘MyFord Touch’ woes – June 20, 2012


  1. As a loyal Ford buyer, I’m hoping that someone will build an after market head unit that utilizes iOS in the Car so I can swap out my factory installed disappointments!

  2. Skeptical- I don’t know that Apple can pull this off. Not because Apple doesn’t have the talent, know-how, or will to do it; but instead because the car manufacturers won’t provide the quality hardware necessary to make it a drop-dead quality experience.

    Traditionally, auto manufacturers have skimped (sometimes to a great degree) on the quality of their in-car audio/video offerings. This is a good move for them, because it can save tremendously on expenses, and they know that there’s a vibrant after-market for this stuff. Apple has traditionally been in control of the whole widget, and hardware quality, design and functionality are all integral pieces of the user experience. In this scenario, Apple doesn’t control that piece of the puzzle, and the success of their entire in-the-car paradigm is threatened because of it. For a company that focuses so much on the user experience, and for which they base their reputation as the world’s leader in tech, this should make them nervous. In the end, if any company could pull it off, it’s Apple. But I’m skeptical.

    1. I’m sure Apple has thought of that and in order to be accepted by Apple, they will have to use the hardware that Apple designates or they can go without it completely and run to microsofts disasterous mysync crap.

      1. What gives the worry some legs is at the end of the first paragraph: “Apple’s Siri is already built into General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Spark and Sonic small cars, where it has garnered less-than-rave reviews”

        For whatever reason, Apple allowed their technology to be put into the lowest-end of GM/Chevy’s offerings. Traditionally premium options start in higher-end vehicles, then work their way down as costs come down. Instead, it seems GM considers Siri (and perhaps iOS) integration as low-end, and their more expensive in-console systems are high-end/premium.

        This is exactly opposite of the brand and image that Apple has worked years for. At the very least Apple should have insisted on Siri/iOS integration across the board, or at least on some mid/high-end vehicles, to prevent the perception it’s for low-end cars. Apple needs to tread carefully with their automotive strategy.

        1. I think the problem is Siri, not the inexpensive cars. Not everything out of Cupertino is fantastic and Siri on i-devices is currently more of a novelty than a useful feature. I’m interested to hear from someone who has used the Siri Eyes Free offering.

        2. You have to get over the idea that Apple is an exclusive, luxury product. The ubiquity of the iPhone and iOS devices will ruin that image; it’s almost already complete.

          Even if this were not the case, putting Siri compatibility into “low-end” cars makes perfect sense. This type of feature appeals to a younger demographic, and they generally buy the less expensive vehicles. It also allows them to beta test this feature with a demographic that is less likely to hold it against Apple permanently if it didn’t go well. Brilliant.

          1. This is not *my* idea, that’s the idea Apple themselves project, by not (yet?) serving the race-to-the-bottom segment in any of their current products. 2-generation old iPhones for $0 on contract are the closest they get.

            If they’re planning to change that, i.e. rumours of some lower-end iPhone coming out soon are true, then this signals a major shift in their corporate thinking. Nothing wrong with that, market conditions change all the time, but it’ll be a few years before we know whether the change is a net plus or negative.

      2. Agreed. I use my iPhone religiously in my car. I ripped out the stock unit and replaced it with an iPhone compatible after market unit. But the microphone still sucks, and the interface on the unit is deplorable (this is universally the case with these units, especially when compared to what Apple can do with an interface). Worst part is, the stock unit was MUCH worse!

        I don’t know that Apple can do much about that. But I keep telling myself, if Apple can take on the Cellular and smartphone giants (and put the smack down on them!), then the auto makers should be bendable as well. We’ll see what happens.

        1. You’ve put your finger on it. The microphone (placement, quality), not to mention the A-D processing and noise filtering of the signal will be critical to the success of this.

        2. Unlike cell carriers, for car makers Siri/iOS integration is a sunk cost (assuming they had to licence any software or hardware from Apple). They can’t make it up in monthly fees, so any attempt to recover the cost is a single up-front price increase to the buyer. And then they have no incentive to provide any software/firmware updates for them.

          It’s not easy to see what leverage there is for Apple to use against the car makers. I’m sure they’ll come up with something.

  3. Upgrade my 2012 BMW unit? iDrive also taps into the cars computer. Will they relinquish control? The present BMW OS is fair at best… Do they have the cajones?

  4. The challenge in the car is to connect in a useful way to the iOS device that I carry around with me all the time. I’d like all the info on my iPhone to be available rapidly on my car even when I am out of range of cell service. I’d also like to be able to load something (e.g. a map) from my hotel wifi onto my iPad and then onto my car even when out of range of cell service. e.g. on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

    1. Presumably, these cars will be networked, similar to how your iPhone is networked- both cellular and WiFi. I can see the auto players incorporating WiFi capabilities, but the cellular part may take some negotiating with the Verizon’s of the world. Or, your iPhone would just take care of all of the syncing and managing duties, so that when you connect in the car, it seamlessly takes care of your business. So I guess it all depends on where the iPhone-like devices are placed in the sequence of operations.

    2. Agreed… iOS Maps needs a prefetch-maps.

      On a recent trip in a foreign country (the US 😉 ), I was on a data roaming plan with 100 MB. 4 hours of highway driving consumed 35 MB of data. I thought it had pre-fetched since I’d gone over the route first on wifi, and the maps still loaded fine when I repeated the test with data off, but apparently it got cleared or the data it did cache wasn’t high-res enough.

      I then found out if you run it with screen off, it’ll grab and display the data only just before the next waypoint. This let the return trip sip just 1-3 MB. Not bad, but I still want zero, especially if you’re going into an area with zero or poor cell coverage (e.g. Grand Canyon), and prefetching of high-res vector map data would’ve easily done this with little wasted space (35 MB is nothing on even a 16 GB iPhone).

    1. Same problem here. I have been highly satisfied with the performance and reliability of successive Ford cars, but my latest one will be my last. Ford Sync is unfit for purpose and negates so many great things about Ford cars.

      The in-cabin electronics simply have to be excellent as they are so tightly integrated into the car. There is no way a manufacturer can settle for second best without marring their cars. A bad user experience makes the driver feel that the car itself is flawed.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. I cannot imagine iOS being anywhere near as kludgy or buggy as MS Ford Sync no matter how it’s implemented. The sooner Ford cuts ties with MS the better.

      As others have said, I hope Apple learned their lesson with the initial GM rollout and is able to pressure the auto makers to listen to them the same way they did the mobile carriers.

  5. Right now I have a crude integration (my iPhone simply plugs in via utility wire to my car stereo), but I absolutely love it, and miss it terribly when I ride in other cars without it. I can only imagine how amazing Apple’s iOS for the car will actually be. I have only had a hint toward its awesomeness. I just hope it’s available for the 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray!

  6. I definitely want to see Apple compete in this arena, and hope they can find a quality solution for partnering with so many different automakers who utilize so many different audio solutions.

    But I’d love to just see Apple partner with an existing manufacturer (Alpine, Pioneer, whoever), and also create an after-market solution. Like the iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc., I think they’d kill it. Single and double-DIN sizes, with full integration to the iDevices, and boom. The whole market of existing vehicles is theirs for the taking.

    1. On many new cars, fitting an after-market radio simply isn’t an option. For a start, where would it go ? Most cars do not have a suitable space for one.

      There was a time when car radios had a standardised housing and it was relatively straightforward to fit an alternative, but these day the electronics system is so tightly integrated that after-market alternatives are rarely viable.

      1. You missed my points. I said an after-market solution for existing cars (after all, the custom audio after-market continues to thrive).

        For new cars, a new Apple-compatible solution, as suggested in the article. But it will need quite a bit of Apple input to be somewhat future-proofed in terms of their product development (besides just an AUX or mic jack or Bluetooth audio).

  7. This article is a little off… Apple is not looking to have an iOS based device installed in cars. “iOS in the Car” is basically a connection protocol for allowing your iPhone to connect to a car’s command center and use various built-in components; mics, speakers, display, etc.

    It is basically an extension of “Siri Eyes Free” that also makes use of the car’s built-in screen to display other information, such as turn by turn navigation… When displayed on the built-in screen, it will use its own unique interface layout and not the standard iOS 7 layout you see on your iOS device.

    Nothing will be built into the car other than a way to communicate with your iOS 7 device – via USB cable or ad-hoc WiFi. It will simply be an alternative to what the car makers already provide.

    That is in sharp contrast to what Ford SYNC is, which is in fact, built into the car with dedicated hardware and software.

    1. This is clearly stated on Apple’s iOS 7 webpage…

      “iOS in the Car seamlessly integrates your iOS device — and the iOS experience — with your in-dash system. If your vehicle is equipped with iOS in the Car, you can connect your iPhone 5 and interact with it using the car’s built-in display and controls or Siri Eyes Free. Now you can easily and safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more. It’s all designed to let iPhone focus on what you need, so you can focus on the road.”

    2. This would be the ideal implementation. iPhones, iPods, etc. would only use the built-in equipment (screens, mics, etc.) No need for updates/upgrades to the car itself (a la the Ford Sync nightmare).

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