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Forget Apple Car: CarPlay could soon control your entire car

An photo of Apple CarPly in use
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While we wait to hear more about the much-rumored Apple Car, Cupertino has been tipped to greatly expand its Apple CarPlay capabilities, potentially letting the control most of your car.

Bloomberg reported that Apple is working on something under the name "IronHeart," which could essentially see iPhones get access in-car systems, such as climate control, the speedometer, radios and more. 

In other words Apple could be moving beyond the limits of CarPlay, a system that was built to let people use apps on their phone without distracting them from the road ahead. 

Bloomberg’s sources, who asked not to be identified, claimed IronHeart would be able to access controls, sensors, and settings within the car. That could include temperature and humidity readings, climate control, audio and speaker settings, seat and armrest controls, and well as information on the speedometer, tachometer, and fuel instrument clusters.

These are the kind of things that would turn CarPlay into something that can be used across the entire car — thereby bridging the gap between the driver’s iPhone and the vehicle itself. Of course, such a scenario would require automakers to be on board with the idea, and it’s not clear what sort of in-car software would be required.

In any case, this would be one more example of Apple’s push into the automotive industry. Back in 2017 Apple allowed automakers to start creating CarPlay-compatible apps to control GPS, radio and climate controls, and in 2019 added support for secondary display screens. 

There’s also the CarKey, which lets users unlock their car with an iPhone or an Apple Watch. However these features haven’t really taken off, with only a few automakers actually supporting them.

But Apple is far from alone in exploring car tech and software, as Google has already  expanded Android’s presence on the road with the Android Automotive OS in certain cars. However the Android Automotive OS actually replaces the usual in-car infotainment software, rather than acting alongside it.

The last thing we need is Google and Apple launching their own competing operating systems for cars, and forcing both people and automakers to choose between them. After all, one of the benefits of Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay is that cars can (and do) support both — so people aren’t left out because of their choice in phone.

It's pure speculation, but if Apple is indeed gearing up CarPlay to have a greater pretense in cars, it could be a sign that Cupertino's automotive efforts will be more on the software side than making an actual car. However, the jury is still out on this and Apple Car rumors keep coasting along. 

Naturally, an Apple Car would likely feature the closest possible integration between iPhones and in-car systems. But it sounds like IronHeart, if this rumor is indeed true, might fill some of the gaps in that connectivity chain much sooner than the Apple Car’s rumored 2024-2026 release window. Assuming automakers get on board, that is.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.