Posted by Neil Bennett 03 March 2014
I fear the Apple-controlled car
Why the hell would I want my iPhone to interface with my car’s dashboard? The possibilities of it killing me or, worse, infuriating me on a daily basis are endless.
Yesterday, Apple announced CarPlay, an agreement with a bunch of carmakers that provides a single platform that allows your phone to interface with your car to a much greater degree than just streaming Babymetal off your iPhone over Bluetooth to pollute the ears of your passengers until they threaten to leave/disown you if you don’t “turn that rubbish off" (except that it’s one of two ‘single platforms’, next to the Open Automotive Alliance initiative for Android phones).
In principle, it’s a great idea. Instead of driving around with an earpiece in – or, like you see some people doing when they get a call while driving, scrabbling around to plug their headset into a phone and then hook it into their ear without crashing – you can take and receive calls and texts by talking to your car. So far, so Knight Rider.
Using your voice via Siri (or Google Now for Android users) you’ll be able to control the satnav, stereo and (I presume) the position of your windows and drinks holder – plus receive helpful information on what the furthest services up the M1 I can get to without running out of petrol, whether that clonking noise coming from the back really needs me to pull over right now, and crowdsourced star ratings from people that matter to justify my musical choices.
But it won’t. Firstly, despite a few years of updates, Apple Maps is still a paler-than-Wednesday-Addams imitation of Google Maps. Its directions’ accuracy is lower than a speech by Michael Gove, and you’d be better off with a mouldy 1974 AA Road Atlas of Britain with half the pages missing.
Secondly Siri can barely understand what you’re saying at the best of times. It has a total blindspot for British road names: so if you mention the A2 it thinks you’re saying ‘A too’ and if you mention the A23 it assumes you’re telling it a nursery rhyme. A voice recognition system than translates the M3 as "I'm free" is completely useless for a satnav and will just baffle anyone you're trying to text.
If you’ve seen the Lego Movie, think of that scene where Benny is trying to use Lord Business’s voice-controlled computer network. Now imagine that every time you want to turn the music up or down a bit, skip a track or open your window a bit (“A bit! Not completely. Now close it. Stop. Stop. Stop! Oh shut up. No don’t shut the window!" Etc). If you’re not already tearing your hair out in imagined frustration, you're Carplay’s ideal user.
(And if you haven’t seen the Lego Movie, go see it. It’s brilliant. In fact, stop reading this article and go watch it. You’ll thank me.)
Finally, Siri requires at least a 3G connection – which is absolutely no-bloody-where to be found at the most regular points I get caught by random gridlock-inducing congestion such as the approaches to the Blackwall Tunnel and a lot of the M25.
The only reason I’d want to use it is if I could teach it how to respond to certain key phrases and vocal pitches of my choosing – so it would tell my kids that no we’re not there yet, no you can’t have another sweet and would you please stop squabbling. Now that’d be good use of in-car technology.