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Next-Generation Apple CarPlay Will Be a Whole Car OS

Apple CarPlay preview occupying multiple screens on a rendered dashboard
Apple

This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.

What's happening

Apple previewed the next generation of its iPhone-powered in-car software.

Why it matters

CarPlay will soon be able to power the totality of a vehicle's infotainment functions.

What's next

The first car with an iPhone-powered dashboard should be announced in late 2023.

Apple CarPlay is about to get a whole lot more powerful. At its WWDC 2022 keynote today, Apple previewed the next generation of its in-car app mirroring technology, which will soon be capable of taking over the car's displays and infotainment functions -- from the speedometer to the seat heaters.

The next generation of CarPlay will be compatible with a variety of aspect ratios -- from portrait to landscape -- and can even adapt to multidisplay dashboards, including vehicles with digital instrument clusters or with ultrawide pillar-to-pillar displays.

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CarPlay will be more integrated with all the host vehicle's systems. Beyond its current navigation and media consumption functionalities, Apple CarPlay will handle traditional instrumentation like speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauges and fuel or EV battery level displays. Users will be able to adjust their climate controls, activate seat heaters, monitor air quality and even tie into Apple's smart home technologies directly from the CarPlay interface.

As with the next generation of iOS on the phone, Apple is also giving CarPlay users the ability to customize how CarPlay looks with selectable themes, backgrounds and widgets. From loud pink analog-style gauges to slick numerical displays and bar graphs, CarPlay will be able to match a wide range of vehicle interior designs and personal aesthetic tastes. 

Perhaps most interestingly, Apple says that this new full-fat approach to CarPlay as a complete vehicle interface will continue to be powered entirely by the connected iPhone, giving Apple an unprecedented amount of control over the vehicle's operation as well as access to data generated by each host vehicle. Here's hoping it can be as trusted to protect said data as it claims to.

Apple says the first vehicles to feature this CarPlay OS compatibility should be announced in late 2023, so we're still about a year out. It also hasn't announced which automaker will be first to the market with the tech, but lists Acura, Audi, Ford, Honda, Jaguar-Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Volvo and Polestar as partners that are "excited to bring this new vision of CarPlay to customers."