by Brent Dirks
March 6, 2014
Unveiled earlier this week, Apple’s long-awaited CarPlay feature promises to give users a safer and smarter way to use their iPhone in a car. A number of manufacturers signed on as hardware partners, including Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. But Apple only allowed private API access to four developers: Spotify, Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher. Fast Company spoke with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, iHeartRadio’s developer, about integrating the app with CarPlay. Brian Lakamp, president of digital for the company, said the process to support CarPlay was fairly easy thanks to Apple:
Lakamp wouldn’t reveal when Apple approached the company, but he says that once they did and iHeartRadio signed on, developing a CarPlay-compatible iHeartRadio app wasn’t a major coding challenge--mainly because Apple did a good job with the API allowing developers to add CarPlay support to their existing apps instead of having to make new, dedicated versions. “The way that Apple constructed this is a relatively thin layer that we need to build to copy existing apps that move some of the control and command structure to the console,” Lakamp says. “Then the console simply acts as a remote control to your app. It was a relatively light integration.”Even though Clear Channel has a tight grip on terrestrial radio, Lakamp said the company wasn’t worried about partnering with Apple:
“I can tell you from my perspective that that idea is somewhat crazy,” he says. “Technology has evolved every step of the way: AM to FM to satellite to Internet. None of those have removed the need for the preceding technology. We're in the fourth, fifth generation of things right now. If anything, they've been additive, and they've extended the opportunity. Every car on the planet has AM/FM radio. It's an easy, reliable way to get at content and get at the personalities that you love. Every car has it, unless the radio has been stolen.”An anonymous source quoted in the story said the Apple has limited access to the API because it wants to go “slow and steady” with the feature. Distracted driving was also a major concern with CarPlay, which is good to hear. Cars with the integrated technology will be available sometime in 2014. We’ve already seen a video of CarPlay in action in Volvo’s new XC90 luxury SUV. Mercedes-Benz also released a large gallery of images of its new C-Class vehicle with CarPlay as well.