The Geneva Motor Show brought the introduction of CarPlay, Apple’s interface for connecting an iOS device to a car. With Apple finally shipping the new iOS in the Car, it appears war has been declared in the battle for overall control of the dashboard infotainment systems. However, Mercedes-Benz has decided to declare a truce in that new war, and will be offering support for CarPlay, Google’s eventual system, and MirrorLink. This means that no matter what phone the driver has, it will interface with the COMMAND system in a Mercedes-Benz.
In order to understand how a company can support more than one interface requires understanding how a system like CarPlay works. The infotainment system in the vehicle, whether it is QNX, Microsoft Embedded, or Android, is the base operating system for the vehicle’s screens. CarPlay support is built into the operating system, and functions more like an app than an operating system. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, QNX is still running in the background when CarPlay is active.
Because CarPlay requires a built-in operating system to function, that built-in operating system can support other interfaces as well. Though there are few actual phones and systems that support it, Mercedes does support the MirrorLink interface for projecting the phone in the vehicle.
Also, Mercedes-Benz is one of the companies stating that they will support a Google interface in the vehicle, when it becomes available. A simple software update, at the most, would be all that is needed for the additional connectivity.
Until Apple or Google is actually creating the infotainment system software all manufacturers will likely end up supporting all of the popular options, including CarPlay and Google, in future vehicles. For Apple, this setup makes sense because it leaves the manufacturer responsible for meeting Apple’s requirements for CarPlay and not have to worry about developing software special for each manufacturer.
Pricing for CarPlay-equipped vehicles have not been announced, but since it requires a large amount of infotainment hardware, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it only available on vehicles that already have factory navigation. Though, companies like Chevrolet are offering the screen and software cheap, so it is possible to see others go that route. For those looking for a format war, we think they’re going to be disappointed.