All these firms seek to capitalize on what Apple recognized a decade ago: The software and connectivity now built into new autos gave tech incumbents a jump on traditional auto-builders. But those advantages haven’t always proven out.

Project Titan had plenty of other challenges. High-profile executives from tech companies, tech-inspired automakers like Tesla, and legacy automakers alike joined and then left the program, reportedly frustrated by the project’s shifting timeline and ambitions. Meanwhile, the autonomous vehicle industry changed around it, going from moonshot darling of the tech space to a still-challenging engineering problem facing technical and regulatory headwinds.

By the time Apple wrapped up the car project, Bloomberg reported that it had drastically scaled down its ambitions from developing a legitimate self-driving car to building an electric vehicle with now familiar driver-assistance automated features of the kind automakers including Tesla, General Motors, and Ford have had on the road now for years.

Yet, despite this downgrading, Apple still drove more autonomous vehicle testing miles last year than ever before, according to reports the company submitted to a California state agency. Apple did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

However, Apple still has a significant foothold in the automotive industry, thanks to its CarPlay infotainment system. Plenty of drivers prefer their iPhone’s car integration to the technology automakers have built from scratch. Indeed, anticipation is increasing for the release this year in the US of the next generation of CarPlay, dramatically increasing functions of the Apple’s in-car UI, with control over multiple screens, camera integration, vehicle monitoring, climate control, and a wealth of driving-related data, including a vehicle’s average speed, fuel efficiency or energy efficiency.

And despite the global car industry being taken completely by surprise at Apple’s 2022 WWDC announcement of the significantly expanded features of new CarPlay—with many refusing to even comment on the software’s new abilities, much less confirm its adoption—most of the major players have now confirmed it will be coming to their vehicles. BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Buick, Chery, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Fiat, Land Rover, Lucid, Mercedes, Toyota, and many more have signed up.

One indicator of the importance of CarPlay for auto OEMs comes from Hyundai Motor Group president Song Chang-Hyeon, a former Apple and Microsoft engineer who heads the group’s software development division. Song told WIRED at CES in January that his very first task after being appointed to the board in 2021 was to fix the glaring omission of wireless CarPlay integration in its vehicles, ensuring that untethered Apple access would finally appear in Kia’s new flagship, the all-electric EV9.

Clearly, for Apple, “this is not the end. This is just the beginning of the game,” says Prasad, the automotive researcher. “This is a very exciting reset in so many different ways.”


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