With Apple's 'CarPlay,' the Race for Flashier In-Car Touchscreen Controls Revs Up

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Former West Coast Editor
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As if drivers weren’t distracted enough already. Bigger, better, flashier and eye candy-filled touchscreen tablet controls are coming to cars -- and they’re giving your vehicle’s old-school buttons, dials and doodads an inferiority complex.

High-profile luxury carmakers Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are predictably driving the deluxe dashboard touchscreen trend and they’re showing off Apple’s long-teased CarPlay feature in select models for the first time at this week’s Geneva Motor Show. Most major carmakers are next in line for CarPlay integration. Notably absent so far are Audi, Chrysler and Volkswagen.   

Related: Elon Musk Admits to 'Conversations' With Apple About Tesla

Apple’s new CarPlay system lets iPhone 5, 5s and 5c owners control their smartphones while driving via voice (using Siri) or via a car’s native dashboard-mounted touchscreen user interface. Here’s a video sneak peek of CarPlay in action, released yesterday by Volvo.  

In-car access to smartphones via Bluetooth is nothing new, but Apple’s latest foray into iPhone-car integration ups the ante by working seamlessly with a car’s tablet-like mounted display. To be clear, CarPlay is a second screen iOS interface, not a separate in-car operating system.

Apple’s new system, which requires users to plug in their iPhones with a Lightning cable to use, enables drivers to make calls, get directions, listen to music, send and receive text and email messages and a heck of a lot more “with just a word or a touch,” all in a way that allows you to stay focused on the road, Apple says.

We all know it’ll be far too tempting to look down at (and tap and swipe the hell out of) that cool touchscreen display anyway, especially at stoplights or stuck in freeway gridlock. But, yeah, at least we won’t have to take our hands off the steering wheel, or so the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant says.

Related: Report: Google, Audi Want to Bring Android to Your Car

Worth noting is that CarPlay apparently won't play nice with Google Maps, syncing up instead with Apple Maps. Speaking of Google, two months ago the company announced its bid to get in on the car-as-rolling-smartphone race, saying it aims to complete its Android-vehicle integration system by the close of 2014.

Another tablet-like vehicle interface is this slick tablet UI concept from San Francisco-based designer Mattaeus Krenn. Instead of cluttering the dashboard touchscreen with a gaggle of app icons, buttons and sliders, Krenn turns the entire touchscreen into “one big control” that’s easy to use without ever looking down at it.

Krenn’s clever concept is really worth checking out:

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