CarPlay and driving technologies

I just wrote a feature on new optical devices in cars, and there is a growing recognition that touch screens are potentially serious safety issue. There is considerable interest in head-up or 3D displays that would float semi-transparent images or warnings in front of the driver instead of on a screen. That might be a help, but I worry about how the screens will adapt to lighting conditions. A head-up warning that displays clearly at night might be washed out in bright sunlight. Car safety experts are worried, and I wouldn’t be surprised if auto insurance companies started charging premiums for cars with serious visibility problems.

I agree with Adam on that. Audio for information such as mapping or warning of upcoming traffic problems could be helpful. Audio for chatting on a phone, on the other hand, has been shown to be a distraction.


Before putting anything more in cars that distract from driving, perhaps run them in simulators to see how much they distract and whether or not simulated accidents could have been avoided. We all get distracted driving- the question is it significantly distracted. David

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This is an excellent point. Especially in some car models where the quality of the touch screens is far worse compared to what we’re used to on iPhones.

I can hit switches or turn knobs blindly while keeping eyes on the road, I cannot blindly tap a small widget on a touch screen. Even less so when the glaring sun makes the already too dim touch screen hard to see, or I need to hit that widget three times with increasing force just because the screen happens to be garbage. I’m still surprised so many of these touch screen cars made it through regulatory approval. No wonder there’s more and more collisions with “distracted” drivers.


As it happens I assisted with a driver distraction project a couple of years ago. There is a report here:

In brief, we found that standards/regulations to reduce the risk of distraction were woeful and that commonality amongst car brands was lacking,
At least Carplay has a few safety-related features such as only speaking text messages and not displaying words or allowing typing.


Very interesting.

I sensed the same problem with standards and regulations for displays lacking any concern for distracted driving. There is a growing scientific case, and organizations like AAA are doing good research in the field.

My feature also covered auto headlights, and the regulations in that field are still woefully far behind on things like cars with headlights mounted so high they glare into other drivers eyes. There are some interesting new technologies for headlights, including sensors that would switch from high beam to low beam if they sensed an oncoming car. Frankly, the headlight developers seemed much far more concerned with safety issues than display developers. My feature is at New Optics for Cars , which I think is behind a paywall. If you want a PDF copy, please contact me.

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I’m not a luddite, but I’m quite concerned about this. It’s alluring and many people will want the added intelligence of the new CarPlay.

But it will increase cognitive load. To begin, it means the same car can be in two or more different display modes. It may seem easy, but that extra mental processing in the order of milliseconds can easily translate into an accident. Adding to the concern is that even today’s more “intelligent” car dashboards can already be in different modes. So we’re looking at innumerable possible configurations of a dash. And you can bet that the dash software will evolve. Apple will introduce distracting features like Focus Mode.

There will be situations where a pair of drivers share a car. One may be more of a technophile than the other… He or she will want their phone driving the dash to access ancillary functions like music. It’s not going to be pretty.

iPhones are not embedded systems. iPhone crashing or misbehaving is absolutely a concern. So you have an increasingly complex embedded system talking to a super complex device.

iPhones are not even reliable phones. Certainly far less reliable that POTS. Today I had to reboot my iPhone 12 Pro (latest iOS) because it kept dropping phone calls ! (yes, rebooting solved the problem.)

Of course some features will make the cars safer. But many a manufacturer are already helping a lot with that.

My Volvo has auto-headlights that include a high-beam feature. On Australian rural roads it sometimes decides that a white roadside reflector is an oncoming vehicle and it creates a dark rectangle around the target - fascinating technology.
I understand that US headlight regulations are way behind the rest of the world and this is holding back the advanced technologies.
Some of My research in this field is outlined here:

with a major report here:
I would like a copy of your paper
( you can use )

Auto headlights have been around for decades and my experience around town is they still don’t have it right. Apparently no one actually controls their high beams anymore, they just let the car handle it, and by the amount of times I am blinded by someones high beams, it just doesn’t work. (the other alternative is there really are that many brain dead drivers who just put high beams on and don’t care about anyone else)

Car touch screen systems just need to go away. I assume they are being developed for the day when cars are self driving. As someone who has worked in IT since the 80s, a car a person doesn’t control is terrifying. None of my cars came with touch screens but I could have added an CarPlay compatible system to my current car when I replaced the deck. They aren’t that expensive but I just can’t fathom not being able to touch things like the volume knob or the little forward and back buttons to skip songs. Siri can’t hear me when I have the windows open.

Paypal also has a 4-pay feature. I’ve used that when pre-ordering books or box sets that are months from delivery. I suppose things can go wrong with payment methods. I don’t remember my options but I have it set to hit my Amazon card for points and have never had a fee from it.


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I don’t know where you are, but few US cars have automatic high beam controls, although they are used in Europe. It’s not entirely brain-dead drivers. Some SUVs have headlights at the top of the hood, so high that that even the low beams shine directly in the eyes of a driver in a small car. (I drive a Honda Fit, so I know from experience.) Safety experts told me that high beams are not used enough where they should be used. Part of the problem is that urban drivers rarely use high beams because they usually have other drivers on the road, and I suspect some people who grew up in cities may never have learned to use them.

Cadillac and GM has had Intellibeam for some time which automatically dims the high beams as needed:

Cadillac’s SuperCruise self-driving feature does not use the touch screen as the controls are on the steering wheel similar to cruise control. However, the problem is that some drivers might be tempted to play around with the touchscreen while the car is being driven and some models like Tesla have a poor track record with monitoring distracted drivers.

Our two Hondas have automatic high beam lights. I participate in a troubleshooting/information forum for Ridgeline drivers, and have found that people’s experience with them is all over the map. Mine happen to work well, dimming at the first glimpse of an oncoming vehicle’s lights and even for red taillights to avoid blinding a driver in their rear view mirror. Others have a range of experiences, with some reporting that the lights never switch to low-beams or never switch up to high-beams.

The most fascinating thing, to me, is the number of people who know they have the feature but never bother to RTFM so they’ll learn how to activate it.

I’m in the US but we are full of foreign makes here. We had a Cadillac’s in the 70s that had them. I just googled and now there are “adaptive headlights”, not just automatic high beams. The town next to me is full of high end cars and those are probably the biggest offenders.

I have a small car too and often drive with my mirror flipped due to large vehicles behind me, so I know what you mean. But these are definitely high beams that I’m complaining about. The new light technology is a whole other issue. (I am old enough to remember thinking halogens were too bright at times)


I don’t understand that assumption at all. Touch screens are useful for functions like navigation, and recent systems are restoring mechanical controls like knobs because yes, it’s a PITA and a hazard to require visual feedback to find a control. CarPlay is useful visually when the vehicle isn’t moving, and Siri combined with CarPlay seems perfectly safe when in motion. In practice it’s about the only time I use Siri for anything more than timing when to turn things on the grill. With improved Internet connections on the road and in my iPhone, I lean much more heavily on Siri when I’m driving.

I thoroughly agree with you that the thought of entrusting my life to a self-driving car is terrifying. I have a hard enough time with shuttle trains at airports that appear to be running autonomously.

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Oh yes! Some cars have had steering wheel controls for awhile. Even my 2004 Ford has a stalk near the turn signals…but it stopped working so I’m back to the deck buttons.


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It was my assumption, nothing I read! My newest car is still over 15 years old, but I have driven newer vehicles with those systems and don’t see the appeal to them at all. I find it completely distracting and would likely cover the screen up. The ones I’ve used seem to be too low for my line of sight while navigating, and I’m short.

I love Siri while driving but fact is she can’t hear me when the windows are open so I really only use her in winter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having maps on my phone and being able to shuffle through thousands of songs without reloading my CD changer, but…. I think things have gone off the deep end.



I was referring to your comments regarding self-driving cars not steering wheel controls in general which have never really gone away. Where they have gone away is on the dashboard where touchscreens have taken over audio controls as well as AC etc. However, a lot of newer models are putting the physical knobs/switches back for basic functions due to the complexity of some of these touchscreen systems.

My wife’s 2017 Mazda CX-5 has a touch screen but it doesn’t work while the car is in motion. By the time we bought a second more upscale Mazda 3 in 2021 the touch screen is gone completely…probably both cost saving and safety related reasons.

I think there has been some criticism of touchscreens in general so maybe car manufacturers are going in a different direction and trying to save money as you say. When I saw that Apple CarPlay picture of the whole dash, it reminded me of something I saw recently in car magazine which had a display all the way across. It was for a Mercedes I think probably the S-Class or similar. Not something I want to see as that is a total distraction but some of these car companies like the eye candy options which they can upsell and Apple wants to be part of that it seems.


I was replying to someone else :) I can’t quote when I go from email.

But I will say again, the self driving assumption was completely mine!