CarPlay and driving technologies

I have a 2016 Honda Pilot with a built in navigation system made by Garmin. For years I did map updates myself (instructions by Garmin are easily found on the Internet), but a couple of years ago it started complaining about “not enough space” when I tried to do an update. Unlike a stand alone Garmin system (I’ve had those, too) you can’t just mount the thing as a disk and delete stuff, so I’m stuck. Occasionally the in dash system will bleat about its maps being out of date. I missed out on CarPlay by a model year or two (it has old CarPlay), and I’d much rather have the newer CarPlay which I’ve used in rentals on occasion.

The update maps for embedded systems will cost you at some point so that can be an issue. But roads don’t change that often so it’s not like you have to buy an update annually. Many embedded systems have navigation that is on par with Apple or Google and you don’t need a smartphone to use them as some people don’t want or bother with smartphones. The problem is finding which systems are as good as CarPlay so for most users, CarPlay is the simplest default choice but not always the best.

One issue for me with CarPlay was the audio. I want the best quality and right now, that would be Apple Lossless but most phones don’t have that kind of storage space if you want to load a good deal of songs in that format. Wireless CarPlay AFAIK doesn’t support Apple Lossless either (the resolution/quality is scaled down). But some embedded systems can play Apple Lossless or FLAC files from an SSD or USB drive and you can put a lot of tracks on those for variety. So that is what I ended up doing since not only did it sound better, but it’s simpler as the phone is not needed. Calls just go through bluetooth as in the past which I generally ignore as they are a distraction. I like to keep things simple. If I need CarPlay, I can just plug in my phone for a specific task.

A few comments…

(1) I love CarPlay. Apple’s Maps is so much better than anything I’ve ever seen built into the car. And arguably having the map screen steals less of your attention than listening carefully for the verbal directions (which is what I used to do before I had CarPlay, or in our older car before we had one of those vent mounts for a phone.)

The nice thing about Siri in CarPlay is that it doesn’t require continuous attention. You say something and it responds (often incorrectly, but that’s another issue)–but you don’t have to pay as much attention as you’d use doing something like changing a radio station in an older car.

(2) My understanding is that the market for aftermarket CarPlay systems is somewhat limited. I wanted to look into it for our 2014 Odyssey, but because so much of the car functionality is part of the built-in display there are really no options that would work. (Hence the aforementioned vent mount.) Essentially, if you have a built-in touchscreen, you’re stuck with what you got when you bought the vehicle.

(3) If you don’t want computers built into your car, you’re going to need to buy an old car. My 2017 Civic is completely “drive by wire”, meaning that the accelerator provides input to a computer, which controls the throttle. The parking brake is a little switch that sends an electronic signal. The number of actual physical linkages in a new car is quickly approaching zero.


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One of the biggest reasons why Google is one of the most highly valued companies in the world, very close to Apple, is because of their highly sophisticated location tracking and ad serving:

They also merge data they collect from a multitude of different sources, and has one of the most effective and sophisticated ad serving operations around the world. “Store Visits” and “Convergence” are an example of how they finely tune targeting:

Unless you mess with your location info in Google’s Maps app, which is not easy to do, Google has a load of data about where go, where you have been and when, and what you bought. They can, and do alert advertisers if they visit their retail locations on or offline and when, and weather or not the visits resulted in purchases.

But Siri, like other non essential in-car activities is still a distraction so it is really no better than an embedded system which may be more accurate since it comes with the car. Changing radio stations might actually be less distracting as there are usually few choices and most cars have steering wheel controls for that as well as volume so your eyes stay on the road where they should be.

I agree entirely, but I’d suggest too that a married couple, for instance, will do better than two adults who don’t drive together frequently. Tonya and I know how to pause the conversation organically as the driving requires more attention, but I remember driving around an unfamiliar area of south Seattle with a friend and having real trouble maintaining the conversation and navigating at the same time.

To my mind, this is a pure bandwidth issue, and an attentive passenger will understand how to ratchet the conversational bandwidth up or down as necessary.


I am wondering if some of this is learned (or age related).

I feel like I used to handle car conversations much better when I drove distances with people more often. But I’ve spent a lot of time in the past 10+ years driving alone, and I find when I have a passenger on a long drive now, conversation can be difficult. It’s obviously traffic dependent. Toss in music and a gps and there’s a lot going on.

Or maybe there’s just that many more crazy drivers on the road demanding my attention!


It also depends on the environment. Back around 1995, I picked up paleontologist John Ostrom at the Boston airport and drove him to Mystic, Connecticut for a meeting. I don’t think we got started talking until we were out of Boston traffic, but once we did we had a memorable conversion, largely him talking, but I can still remember some of the things he said. Most of the trip past Boston was on highways where I felt comfortable.

I think it’s mainly age-related. I started noticing it when I was driving with my wife maybe 15 years ago. We always talk while driving on a highway, but back then I started asking her to wait while we were in busy city traffic. We don’t have the radio on when driving together.
The main difference I’ve noticed in drivers is the number of them on phones. I rarely notice them when I’m driving unless we’re stopped beside or in back of them, but I notice more when I’m on my bike at a busy intersection near home where I see about 10% of drivers on the phone while making a left turn.

And then of course in the old days we had pushbutton presets . . .

Yes. My 2019 Ridgeline has navigation engineered by Garmin. It is a large improvement on the 2016 version on my spouse’s old CR-V, which had an impossibly convoluted UI. If it were the only navigation available to me, it would be acceptable and I would maintain it.

But thanks to my iPhone, I have not only Maps, but also Google and Waze available through the vehicle’s head unit. Any one of them makes the embedded system seem like an antique. Garmin also provides a “voice prompt system” that in theory should allow voice control of the navi, but it is terrible at the one thing it should be good at—voice recognition. I attribute that to having to embed everything in a double-DIN case. Even with sending waveforms out on the cellular Internet to be analyzed and returned as voice commands, today’s Siri is much faster and more accurate on this score.

I think that conversation while driving is a learned skill, and it can atrophy. The stereotype of the taxi driver who never stops talking hints at extreme comfort with driving and talking all at once.

Wait, presets don’t exist anymore? I mean I rarely listed to the radio but I do have them programmed!


All of this reminds me of driving with my grandfather. He could not have the radio on in the car, because when he grew up, people sat and watched the radio when it was on.


I’ve taken to using Waze a lot these days, I like the fact that it will alert me if I exceed the speed limit, easily done on our rural backroads.

For those times when data is an issue I like MyMaps, that app permits downloading maps in advance and it uses the GPS system alone when data falls off.

As for conversation distractions, pack a car full of Irish people and silence would be distracting…

My aunt got her license when you just had to mail in a request, she was an appalling driver, the cars speed would vary according to how interesting the conversation was, too dull - speed up, too interesting - slow down.

When leaving on family vacations (we towed a trailer), we could not talk or listen to music till Dad said so. He’d spend the time listening for any odd noises and to make sure everything felt ok and I guess 4 kids were a wicked distraction! As an adult, I do the same thing even in just a car. Not an issue when I drive alone but I definitely noticed it when I went away with my SO. He reaches for the radio and I say “Not yet!!”. Took me a bit to realize what I was doing!

I guess that is one thing technology has “improved” on, just put an iPad in front of the kid in the backseat and they’ll stop talking. (that was a little sarcastic)


One of the reasons I like Waze is because it will alert you about speed traps.

My 2015 Civic doesn’t have buttons, just a steering wheel clicker that takes you through the preset stations sequentially. My previous one did have separate buttons, though, and you’re right, there could be plenty of cars like it on the road. And I was actually thinking of those big toothy things sitting in a row under the dial back in the 50s.

I’m just an analog kinda guy, I guess. As my father said when he was teaching me to do things, “You’ll get the feel of it.” And, mostly, I did.

Oh yes, I remember those too. And the big one to eject the 8-track lol.

My current deck has preset buttons but the forward and back also work when the phone is connected. I use those often as they are closest to me and easy to feel. Way easier than reaching for the phone to hit next or dealing with Siri.


This is a response to Android Automotive which is being pushed by Alphabet. Android Automotive is very different from Android Auto.

Android Auto allows your phone’s display to show up in your car much like CarPlay does. Android Automotive is made to act like your car’s OS. It will have access to all the various components. It’ll know the speed you’re traveling, whether your oil pressure is low. It can control your air conditioner and wipers.

There’s nothing head scratching about that CarPlay announcement. Apple wants access to the same APIs that Android Automotive will get. Apple doesn’t want CarPlay to be relegated to a remote screen while Android Auto gets front and center. They don’t want people to become disappointed with their CarPlay experience and switch to Android.

CarPlay is a big deal. It has caused consternation with Sirius XM and radio broadcasts. Why pay $15 per month when you can simply listen to your favorites on Apple Music or your favorite podcasts while you drive. People are no longer wanting to pay thousands of dollars for the automobile’s maker’s GPS option. They rather use Apple Maps on their phone and play it through CarPlay. Automobile manufacturers were planning to make big bucks with subscription services. Instead, Apple makes the money.

How big is CarPlay? BMW originally announced they weren’t going to integrate with CarPlay because it would hurt sales of their ConnectedDrive subscriptions. However, not having CarPlay hurt BMW’s sales enough that they implemented CarPlay the following year. Two years ago, BMW announced you can only use CarPlay if you paid BMW for the subscription for $15 per month. Sales dropped and BMW relented once again. Car manufacturers aren’t fans of CarPlay, but they can’t afford to lose sales because they don’t have it in their cars.

The newly integrated CarPlay will make sure that Apple won’t take a backseat to Android Auto. They want to make sure manufacturers can keep offering CarPlay, that customers insist upon CarPlay, and that CarPlay helps to continue to make Apple sales.


Aha, that makes sense. It sounds like Apple essentially wants carOS to compete with Android Automotive—whether Apple will end up calling it that is completely speculative.