In just five years, Apple's CarPlay API for iPhone integration will dominate the auto industry and will be installed in more than 24 million vehicles, according to ABI Research.
In a report, ABI points to announcements from more than half a dozen manufacturers that plan to install CarPlay in new vehicles. Those car makers include Ford, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar/Land Rover, Toyota, Nissan, and Volvo.
The CarPlay specification allows an iPhone to be mirrored to a vehicle's infotainment system while the smartphone is recharging.
What Apple's CarPlay would look like on a car's infotainment system (Image: Apple).
Once connected to the infotainment system, the iPhone can be controlled by voice, through a car's built-in touchscreen or by steering wheel-mounted controls.
Through CarPlay, drivers will be able to use the voice-recognition service Siri to have text messages read aloud, reply via voice and get contact information from an iOS device to make phone calls.
CarPlay also enables the use of the Apple Maps navigation service.
CarPlay is competing with proprietary interfaces, such as Ford's Sync system, as well as industry open-source specifications such as MirrorLink and GENIVI, which are championed by industry groups.
Earlier this year, Google announced it would start an Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) and its standard will be known as "Android Auto."
Unlike CarPlay, which is positioned to integrate only with iOS devices, open-source standards such as MirrorLink can also handle Android, Windows and Blackberry phones.
Even if 24 million cars are using CarPlay, that doesn't mean they won't also be able to use competing standards. For example, Mercedes Benz became the first car company to demonstrate Apple's new CarPlay interface for the iPhone 5 and later models at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. It also reemphasized its support for MirrorLink's OS-agnostic standard for the same purpose.
Mercedes is a founding member of the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), a group of automobile and mobile phones makers developing MirrorLink.
ABI Research also believes the uptake of MirrorLink will be significant, but predicts that more cars will be fitted with CarPlay.
Without an open ecosystem, however, carmakers could be forced to collaborate with more than one partner, according to ABI.
MirrorLink, OAA and GENIVI have all positioned themselves as "open sourced" and they could be considered competitors, which goes against being open, ABI's report said.
"This trend is concerning as car manufacturers will worry about incompatibility and whether supporting the wrong platform will lead to lost sales," the report noted. "For consumers, potentially it could mean asking the dealer, 'Will my smartphone be compatible with my car?'"
Volvo's demonstration of CarPlay on its infotainment system.
Although Android Auto has just been launched, it claims to already have the backing of 40 car makers with more announcements slated for 2015. As a result, uptake of the Android Auto standard could be more aggressive than CarPlay by 2019.
"Many believe Apple is creating further fragmentations and a ripple effect in the industry by not being open. However, love it or hate it, with Apple on the scene it certainly draws greater attention to in-car apps. And now with the Android Auto standard on the scene, both will certainly drive adoption of in-car apps," Filomena Berardi, senior analyst at ABI, said in a statement.
Thilo Koslowski, vice president of Automotive Industry Advisory Services at Gartner, said automakers must do a better job of offering mobile technology themselves or have their lunch eaten by rivals in the tech industry.
"This is the year, this is the time that the auto industry has to go out there and really start embracing technology," Kowlowski said. "Technology will really kind of define the future of the automotive industry. This is a defining moment."
Koslowski pointed to Google and its self driving car, mobile digital distribution platforms such as Google Play and in-car smartphone connectivity platforms, such CarPlay, as signs of bigger things to come.
Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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