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Apple CarPlay in a Tesla? This developer just got it working

Tesla model s vs tesla model 3
(Image credit: Tesla)

Update: Ming-Chi Kuo has some bad news for the Apple Car, claiming that the development team has already been dissolved for some time.

There are plenty of things to like about the technology inside a Tesla, but there are also a lot of things we wish the electric cars did. One of the biggest gripes I have is the fact Tesla refuses to support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, instead relying on its own custom infotainment system.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get Apple CarPlay working inside your Tesla. Polish developer Michał Gapiński (opens in new tab) got CarPlay running on a Tesla Model 3’s infotainment display, albeit with a few caveats. 

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Gapiński hasn’t offered a step-by-step guide to how he got Apple CarPlay running on the Model 3, only that it involved a Raspberry Pi running a custom Android build and loads CarPlay into the in-car browser. Finally, a web browser on a car screen is good for something.

Gapiński also confirmed that he was able to use the car’s steering wheel controls to control Apple Music — a service Tesla’s own in-car system still doesn’t support. The video also shows how seamlessly CarPlay is within the existing Tesla ecosystem, even if he does appear to have to use the mouse to navigate — which is hardly ideal.

That said, CarPlay doesn’t interfere with any of the other on-screen features. That’s important in a Model 3 (and by extension a Model Y), because the lack of an instrument cluster means all the important driver information is on the center screen. Why? It’s not clear, since the Model S, Model X, and every other car in existence, has some sort of panel behind the steering wheel.

Gapiński says he will release a full tutorial “when it’s polished” and at the moment is working on improving the Wi-Fi connection. It’s unclear when the final workaround might be ready.

The only question here is why Tesla still stubbornly refuses to support CarPlay (and Android Auto) in its vehicles. The obvious answer is that it would prefer you to use its own proprietary software, which has better integration with the car itself. 

So, for instance, if you’re only a long drive and set to run out of power, the navigation system can automatically route you to a Supercharger along the way. But a lot of these features, navigation included, cost $10 a month. Apple and Google’s alternatives are free, provided you have an adequate data plan.

Tesla has never made any announcement one way or the other. So whether it’s about a seamless ‘Tesla’ experience, or the fact it doesn’t want competition that might make its own pricey services look less appealing, the fact is CarPlay and Android Auto are off limits without some sort of workaround.

It’s not clear how convenient Gapiński’s final method will be, but it would offer some more choice to iPhone-toting Tesla owners. Whether that will encourage Tesla to better embrace the idea of giving the customer more choice isn’t clear, though I personally wouldn’t get my hopes up.

In the meantime, your best option might just be to pick up a CarPlay-capable screen and utilize that instead.

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.