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The real impact of CarPlay: It's the software, dummy

Dan Moren | March 5, 2014
There's plenty of back and forth about whether Apple's recently announced CarPlay, which will arrive in some vehicles later this year, will combat distracted driving or just make it worse. But there's one implication of CarPlay that actually gives me some hope about the disappointing state of car electronics: Apple's track record as a software developer.

Now, don't get me wrong: There are plenty of downsides to the touch interface, especially in a car. But there's an upside, too: those touchscreens are entirely dependent on software. And software can be refined, iterated, and updated.

Since CarPlay is powered by your iPhone, the software is as up-to-date as your phone's, meaning that over-the-air patches can be deployed to fix bugs and bring new functionality without a trip to the dealer. (Tesla is, to my knowledge, the only car manufacturer who currently has the capability for over-the-air updates.) The touchscreen interface you have today or tomorrow doesn't necessarily have to be the same one you have three or four years from now.

In a day and age where we're all downloading app updates every day, and have become accustomed to quickly deployed fixes for security vulnerabilities, the process of updating the software in our cars — when such a thing is even possible — seems archaic. While CarPlay may not spring forth fully formed, like Athena from Zeus's head, and fix all the woes of car electronics right out of the box, it's laying the groundwork for improvements to come.


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