CarPlay and driving technologies

That’s definitely different than the modern adaptive headlights. I should also mention that there were plans to make self-driving cars in the 1950s, described in History of self-driving cars - Wikipedia RCA and the state of Nebraska were involved. Searching further is well worthwhile to get and idea of what they were attempting to do and how far they were from anything like today’s technology.


I just don’t like the idea of some piece of software deciding to turn them on when I don’t want them on. There are far too many situations where it could mess up (fog, rain, snow, cars too far away for the sensor to detect) and I don’t want to have to be concerned about needing to override its decisions. If I didn’t turn them on, then I don’t want to have to think about needing to turn them off.

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My Mazda has auto-high beams and it works wonderfully well. I drive home on a narrow windy mountain road where I really need high beams and two hands on the wheel, and it is amazing how quickly it dims the beams when I round a corner and there’s another car approaching. It reacts far faster than I ever could. I’ve noticed it even dims when it detects motion, such as a deer on or near the road, which is terrific (I would assume it works on pedestrians, too).

My biggest issue is when I take the car in for servicing they always turn the auto-headlights feature off (I guess it turns on in the dark service bay and annoys them) and I don’t notice my headlights aren’t coming on automatically unless it’s really dark. That’s a safety problem!


From what I was told, auto-hugh beam headlights may not have been permitted for use in the US until recently, and it’s possible that the repair manual called for turning them off for that reason.

I have driven on some narrow winding mountain roads in the past, and I can see the benefits of an automatic high-beam in that situation. The road up Mount Wilson from Pasadena to the Mount Wilson Observatory was particularly memorable, although I only went up it a few times.

Fair enough, you don’t like it. I’ve had four years’ experience driving at night with this system under all the use cases you mention, and have not experienced an event where the lights are up when they should be down, or vice versa. If a particular vehicle is exhibiting that kind of behavior, then the auto-dim system needs to be taken to the repair shop and recalibrated.

I drive urban, suburban, and rural roads year-round in all kinds of weather, and I like being able to see far enough ahead to spot glowing eyes or a pedestrian in enough time to take action. The times I’ve been “flashed” by oncoming vehicles have all been when my low-beams are on, because they are factory-equipped LEDs and some folks perceive them as blinding or glaring.

What I dislike is a certain brand vehicle moving autonomously along the highway and deciding that emergency vehicle flashers are a warm and inviting beacon that it should follow. But I’m sure that’s because I’m not familiar with the system, and that people who drive it would tell me it’s an anomaly that needs to be refined and/or recalibrated.

The big point here is that the auto-dim system can be disabled temporarily, or if you just don’t like it, turn the headlights to full ON instead of AUTO.


Cadillac/GM’s Intellibeam has been around for 17 years as this link mentions not counting the first iteration in the 1950’s which was a more basic system:

Today’s modern cars are doing a lot things automatically like cylinder deactivation, airbag deployment, and self-driving if available so we do have to place some trust in these systems unless you have an older car which has none. High beams coming on and off are really not a big issue compared to some of the other automatic features many of which are not able to be turned off.

I just took my car in today for service and, sure enough, the auto headlight feature was turned off. This feature works really well for us. As for auto-dimming high-beams, we have those, too, but rarely use them. But they do seem to work well; the only thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the reflection from white signs by the side of the road fools them into thinking a car is approaching and dims the high beams when it’s not necessary.

CarPlay I’ve only used once, in a rental car in England driving from Exeter south to the rural Devon coast, and, boy, was that a fantastic experience. We are planning to buy a new car, which my wife will use (and will have CarPlay), and I’ll take the one she’s been driving now, and I’m seriously considering an after-market CarPlay unit.

And this does bother me.

I distinctly remember stories in the news during the early days of airbags where some spontaneously deployed (IIRC, as a result of a liquid spill on the center console). I really don’t like the idea of a safety feature that has a failure mode that can potentially cause an accident.

Fortunately, at the time, the law still allowed passive restraints instead of airbags, and that is what I had in my car. I’d still prefer it, but that’s another discussion, and there is no longer a way to opt-out of that tech.

Which is why I will be one of the last people on the planet to use autonomous driving. I will wait for everybody else to discover the bugs with their cars before I trust my own life to it.

Back on-topic with Carplay…
I find the Apple Maps app OK for navigation but it depends on having a cell/mobile signal.
In Australia for many years I have been using a standalone navigation app called Metroview that works outside cell phone coverage. When I recently updated my car I was pleased to see that it supports Carplay.
Metroview also has a speed-alert function to assist drivers stay within speed-limits (it has an adjustable tolerance for alerts).
Every few years I have lobbied Apple to add this feature to Maps - without success of course!

One of the things to consider here is that the issue with phone calls while driving isn’t just the hands-free side of things – there’s a lot of evidence showing that folks talking on the phone lose the cognitive ability to track their driving independent of holding the phone. I don’t know whether interacting with Siri would cause the same issues, but it’s something to be worried about.

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I agree with most of what you’re saying, especially the airbag issue after the large Takata recall which affected many cars/brands not so long ago. From what I’ve read, I wouldn’t use Tesla’s Autopilot due to some of its problems due to not tracking driver awareness and/or fooling the system to think you are aware. There is talk of a possible recall due to the numerous accidents involving Autopilot. On the other hand, GM/Cadillac’s SuperCruise has been praised and rated as one of the top, if not the top self-driving systems as of now. But no system and/or car is totally safe.

This is why many drivers prefer using an embedded system that comes with the car that is not dependent on cell phone signals/apps.

Unfortunately, the UI on those embedded navigation system often stinks compared to what we’re used to from Maps or Car Play.

I’d love to see Apple figure out how to do offline navigation right. Even Google struggles with that, but of course they also lack the business incentive to do that part right. Apple doesn’t have that handicap. It’s really about caching data required for search. Once Maps has charted a course, it’s still quite fine going offline already today. It’s the initial search and course plotting where they’d need to put in some extra work.

The problem with those systems is that the maps need to be periodically updated and it isn’t free. For example, had I bought the navigation option for my 2012 Honda Civic, a map update costs $100 (or $150 if you want the dealer to install it). And after just checking, the 2021 update is the last one made for this car - so there won’t be anything more recent than that.

Using a navigation app on my phone eliminates this problem. I’m always navigating using the latest map data.

And as @Simon pointed out, the UI on these navigation systems are pretty bad compared to Apple’s and Google’s apps.

As for off-line navigation, both Apple and Google store the entire route when computing the path. So they only need connectivity when you deviate from the route (so it can recalculate). Depending on where you’re going, this may or may not matter much.

And if that isn’t sufficient, there are navigation apps you can install (not necessarily for free) where the app will pre-download map data for an entire region, allowing it to compute routes without any network connectivity.


Other tests have shown that talking to passengers in the car also can be distracting. It seems to be the interaction that causes the distraction. As I’ve gotten older I have noticed that talking to my wife when we’re driving through a busy intersection can be distracting, and I’ll ask her to wait until we get through intersection so I can concentrate. Talking is no problem when we’re driving through on a highway with smoothly flowing traffic, just where I feel I need to be at peak attention. I have no problem driving with the radio playing as long as it’s nothing I need to pay attention to, like an exciting scene in an audiobook.


It’s interesting – the studies I’ve seen suggest that talking to a passenger is much less distracting (though not completely so) because the passenger & driver can moderate their discussion given traffic conditions (as you noted you do). People on the phone don’t have that awareness – and neither does Siri. Siri’s tendency to get things wrong additionally suggests another layer of distraction. It might well be that verbal controls are actually not a good way forward.

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That is so true. In fact, I’d love to see a more refined study, comparing the conversation of two adults (both being presumably licensed drivers), and a driver with a child. I would strongly suspect, based on life experience, that the former would be a much more nuanced conversation, with driving conditions strongly informing the intensity and pace. Kids, bless their little hearts, are oblivious…much like Siri.


Last year I traveled in a rural area with spotty cell coverage. At the last minute I put my SO’s Garmin in the glovebox.

The phone worked great offline. (Well there was one hiccup). Where I ran into problems was checking out a couple of areas on the way home. Each location was off the main route. Get to the first one and find I now can’t program the second address and had lost my ability to backtrack since I exited the map. I remembered the Garmin and was able to use that until I got back to a main route.

My hiccup was when driving offline up a mountain. I was looking for a right hand turn to bring me up my final ascent but the actual parking lot must’ve been above me. I saw an old cemetery, stopped quickly and backed up. And heard Siri say “arrived!” Yikes!! I was not arrived. The map was still on the screen though so I was sort of able to see where I was going and luckily remembered my turnoff.


I’m with you David! I went into IT in the 80s. The less tech in my cars the better. I worked at a dealer for years and can tell you that these systems break often. I remember two techs trying to trouble shoot an “auto parking” system and by the time they were done, they said they’d never use that “feature”.

I look at them as just more things to go wrong anyway. I’ve only had power windows and locks for a few years and the power sunroof needs a part as I can only open and close it using the reset procedure. At some point the windows and locks will fail.