Apple, whose CarPlay interface is used by millions of motorists to control music, get directions and make phone calls, is looking to expand its reach within cars. The company is working on technology that will allow access to functions such as a climate-control system, speedometer, radio and seats, according to people with knowledge of the effort. The initiative, known internally as “Ironheart”, is still in its early stages and will require the cooperation of automakers.
The work underscores the idea that cars can be a major money-maker for the tech giant — even without selling a vehicle itself. While plans for an Apple Car have faced setbacks this year, including the defection of key executives, the company continues to make inroads with CarPlay. It lets customers connect their iPhone handsets to the vehicle to handle the so-called infotainment features. Seven years after its launch, CarPlay is now offered by most major automakers.
Ironheart will take CarPlay a step further. The iPhone-based system can access a variety of controls, sensors and settings, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the project is secret.
- Inside and outside temperature and humidity readings
- Temperature Zones, Fans and Defroster Systems
- Surround-sound speakers, equalizers, tweeters, subwoofers, and settings to adjust fade and balance
- seats and armrests
- Speedometer, tachometer and fuel instrument cluster
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the Cupertino, California-based company’s car plans. Apple’s shares rose 1.1 percent to $ 143.49 (about Rs 10,780) as trading began in New York on Thursday morning.
By gaining access to controls and devices, Apple can turn CarPlay into an interface that can span almost the entire car. The data may also be used by Apple or third parties to create new types of apps or to add features to existing functions.
Some Apple users have complained about the need to jump between CarPlay and the car’s built-in system to manage key controls. This initiative will reduce that hesitation.
The effort will be similar to Apple’s approach to health and home technology. The company offers an app on the iPhone that can access and collect data from external health devices using its HealthKit protocol. The Home app, meanwhile, uses Apple’s HomeKit system to control smart devices, including thermostats, security cameras and door locks.
CarPlay will represent Apple’s strongest push into Ironheart cars since its release in 2014, but it may not be a hit with automakers. They may 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 slow to catch up with automakers.
In 2015, Apple began allowing car manufacturers to build third-party apps for CarPlay that could access car radios, GPS, and climate control. In 2019, it started supporting CarPlay on digital instrument clusters such as the secondary car screen. A year later, it announced CarKey, a feature for unlocking a car with an iPhone or Apple Watch, and electric-vehicle routing, the ability for the iPhone to sense when connected to an EV, and charger key in a map view. provides information.
But automakers mostly shy away from adding these enhancements. The climate control and radio apps are only supported by some cars. And the EV routing feature is not available on any vehicles that are currently shipping. The CarPlay display extension is only supported by certain brands such as BMW and Volkswagen, and CarKey is on some BMWs.
For a while, Apple allowed its Siri voice assistant to tap into certain car features, allowing it to change audio sources and radio stations, move seats, and operate climate settings. But those features, which relied on app support from car makers, were removed in iOS 15, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, according to a message sent to developers in July. Apple may eventually delay or even cancel Ironheart features if they don’t show enough promise.
Some manufacturers, including Tesla, have completely disregarded the car efforts of Apple and Google, choosing to build out their next-generation infotainment ecosystems. Ford Motor is also looking to be more ambitious. It recently hired Doug Field, former Tesla chief engineer and head of Apple’s own car project, to work on its in-car technology.
Still, carmakers run the risk of upsetting iPhone fans by focusing on their own incompatible systems. And that could eventually influence more of them to adopt Apple’s technology. They can also choose to implement the features in different ways depending on the car. In some vehicles, Apple may gain access to climate control, while others may simply provide access to the speaker.
For Apple, the project could provide useful insights for its efforts to build a self-driving car. However, the company will not collect user or car data as part of the initiative.
After Fields left, the company appointed Apple Watch and health software chief Kevin Lynch as its car project head. An actual car is probably years away – if it ever happens – but Apple has several ex-Tesla vice presidents and former BMW electric car executive Ulrich Kranz working on the project.
A strong foothold in cars could also keep the iPhone entangled in the daily lives of customers. Each time the device handles more tasks – like using the car, paying for groceries, showing ID or opening the door of the house – it gives consumers another reason to remain iPhone users.
Then they are more likely to upgrade to the new model and stay away from rival phones. Despite Apple’s push into new territories, the iPhone remains the company’s biggest money-maker, with sales accounting for nearly half of that last year, or about $138 billion (about Rs 10,37,210 crore).
© 2021 Bloomberg LP