March 3, 2014, 1:37 PM

Talk about mobile, Apple lovers now can drive an iCar

A new SUV from Volvo runs iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Apple’s CarPlay links an iPhone to the vehicle’s large dashboard monitor, which offers touchscreen and voice command access to apps ranging from phone and messages to maps and streaming music.

Lead Photo

Volvo's XC90 SUV will be the first automobile to run iOS. A driver will connect her iPhone to the vehicle and the vehicle will offer touchscreen and voice command access to apps and services.

Most mobile technology experts say the next big step in the evolution of mobile hardware is wearables, computer devices that can be worn on the body, like smartwatches and Google Glass eyeglasses. But mobile is quite suddenly making significant inroads into another type of hardware, one that weighs a ton more than a smartphone and doesn’t easily fit into a user’s pocket: the automobile.

Later this year, Volvo Car Group will introduce its new XC90 sport utility vehicle, the first vehicle to run Apple Inc.’s iOS mobile operating system on the vehicle’s large dashboard monitor, which offers touchscreen and voice command access to the apps on a driver’s iPhone. Apple stresses this enables safe use of phone-based features and functions in a moving vehicle. Drivers will be able to place and answer calls, hear messages, use maps and navigation assistance, listen to streaming music services, and more. The system will only work with the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c running iOS 7, which connect to the vehicle through a built-in cable or, soon, through in-car Wi-Fi.

The Volvo SUV will be the first vehicle to offer what Apple is calling CarPlay. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari are showing off the new mobile technology at this week’s Geneva Auto Show. Apple says other automakers planning to roll out cars with CarPlay include BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.

“Users of iPhones will feel completely at home in a new Volvo,” says Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car Group. “We have created a wholly integrated user experience in our large portrait-oriented touchscreen that takes the in-car mobile device experience to a new level. That, coupled with the obvious driver safety benefits of an advanced voice control system like Apple’s Siri, made Apple a perfect match for Volvo.”

Once an iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri helps a driver access contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails. When incoming e-mail or text messages or push notifications arrive, Siri provides an “eyes-free” way to respond to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call.

CarPlay makes driving directions more intuitive, Apple says, by working with the Maps app to anticipate destinations based on recent trips via contacts, e-mails or texts, and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and estimated arrival time. A driver can also ask Siri for spoken turn-by-turn directions, along with Maps, which will appear on the driver’s car’s built-in display.

CarPlay gives drivers access to all of their music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio with navigation through listening choices from the car’s built-in controls or by asking Siri to pull up precisely what a driver would like to hear. CarPlay also supports select audio apps, including Spotify and iHeartRadio, so a driver can listen to her favorite radio services or sports broadcast apps while driving.

Apple’s competitor in the mobile operating system space, Google Inc., in January unveiled the Open Automotive Alliance, an effort to get Google’s Android software into vehicles. Automaker members of the alliance include Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai, though there has yet to be an announcement by any carmaker regarding Android in a car. Apple beat Google to the punch by announcing the Apple iOS In The Car effort last June.

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