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What Apple Has Planned For Your Car

By Aaron Crowe

Apple has taken over your home and portable devices — half of all American households own an Apple product — and now the company is aiming at your car.

Its portable devices have been connected to cars for years, and last June it offered Siri Eyes Free to allow the iPhone’s voice-recognition hardware to be integrated into the car with the voice command button on the steering wheel so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. So far GM is the only automaker to implement Siri, though more are planning it in the long lead times it takes to get product changes into cars.

But Apple has plans to get into cars in other ways, mainly with iOS7 to turn a car’s console into a larger iPod screen for Siri and Apple Maps.

Depending on how you view Apple products, having more Apple features in your car could be a great thing or destined for disaster.

Siri has had problems understanding commands, and Apple Maps was so bad when it was introduced that Australian drivers were getting lost in the bush in scorching temperatures.

But with those problems mostly gone, having more Apple in your car will hopefully be more fun than frustration.

Here are some in-car features that Apple already offers or plans to be part of, though they may take years to get to market as deals with car makers, more car testing and hardware improvements are done.

In car dashboards: As mentioned above, Apple is working with car makers to embed iOS services into cars’ center consoles, essentially turning the bigger in-car dash into a bigger screen for the iPhone or other Apple device. Apple Maps would appear in the in-car display and would provide directions, instead of the GPS system already in many cars, reports the website 9to5Mac.

Moving into a car’s dashboard with voice-activated navigation will help Apple and the cars its in move away from touch screens, says J.P. Zeni founder of DMV.com, which isn’t affiliated with government agencies but covers auto regulation news.

Some states may not allow the new technology, Zeni says. California law, for example, prohibits all forms of text messaging, including voice-activated texts. Florida, on the other hand, doesn’t have any distracted driving laws, he says.

Whether Apple can avoid the early problems it had with Siri and Apple Maps is a question consumers should ask when buying such a car, Zeni says.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a technical challenge to make it user friendly,” he says.

Consoles haven’t changed much in the last 20 years or so, mostly going from using CDs instead of tapes. If anyone can make them more exciting, Apple can, Zeni says.

“I wouldn’t bet against them being able to do it,” he says, “and if they could do it, it could be huge.”

On-board diagnostics: The Automatic Link app is already available to monitor speed, braking and rapid acceleration. It can also check engine health and provide “subtle audio cues when you do things that waste gas.” Sounds like a back-seat driver, but heard through the car’s speakers.

iPhone as smart-key: Apple has taken out two car-related patent applications. One would allow the iPhone to be used as a smart-key, using a Bluetooth connection from the phone to unlock the car, and another patent application to use the iPhone to help locate the car when it’s parked in a big parking lot.

It goes further than existing control systems, allowing access only during certain hours (daytime but not late at night, for example), setting a maximum speed limit and geofence so it can’t be driven on freeways, and limiting access to the on-board entertainment system while driving.

If Apple fans are lucky, more in-car Apple apps and uses will be released at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco from June 10-14.

It won’t likely include the iCar, a product that hasn’t been invented but was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ dying wish.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.