Driving down the road with a car full of friends is one of my favorite pastimes. I'm too young for cassettes, but I can remember passing around my CD book so everyone could choose a tune. Of course, that eventually morphed into "pass the aux, bro." Then came Bluetooth and it made things easier. Now, wireless Apple CarPlay is a thing, which makes the entire in-car music experience pretty seamless...as long as just one person is connected. That's about to change.
Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Monday where it announced a new $3,499 Vision Pro augmented reality headset, overshadowing pretty much everything else. However, buried in the news was a sleek upgrade to Apple CarPlay coming to iOS 17 that allows vehicle passengers to join their driver in a shared media session—a modern take on passing the aux cord.
“Now when the driver’s iPhone is connected to CarPlay, any passenger’s iPhone will automatically suggest joining their session," said Apple's Director of Software Program Management, Anne Park Shedlosky. "Just tap to connect. From there, it’s easy to play your favorite music, control playback and enjoy the ride together.”
The magic of this new CarPlay feature is done through SharePlay, which is already baked into the Apple ecosystem. So far the feature will only work through Apple's native music app. However, third-party apps may be supported in the future.
This upgrade is the first and only CarPlay change announced for the upcoming iOS 17 thus far. Apple also announced an offline version of Apple Maps, meaning that drivers that live in areas with spotty cell service can download a portion of a map and still have access to turn-by-turn directions even if they don't have cellular reception. However, it's not clear if this function will be supported through CarPlay or just handheld cell usage.
Now, it's probably fair to say that this year's WWDC was a bit of a letdown for those expecting a ton of news surrounding CarPlay. After all, we know that there are other big updates coming to Apple CarPlay, and a virtual aux cord is hardly the tip of the iceberg. Cupertino wants to expand past the vehicle infotainment experience and take over your gauge cluster, making it a seamless experience to bring your phone into any car and be greeted with familiar apps and settings, a la Tesla. Despite customers wanting this, some OEMs are fighting it in favor of in-house developed systems. Others have pledged to keep both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Whether or not we'll see significant updates to CarPlay any time soon is still a bit of a mystery. Apple is fairly tight-lipped about its updates ahead of an official release, and we're sure that the first car to support Apple's CarPlay vision will be big news. Maybe it will even end up being the fabled Apple Car after all.
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