Hands-free iTunes in car gets test drive

WASHINGTON — Enjoying music-to-go will soon get a bit safer for iPhone users as Apple is test-driving its hands-free CarPlay system in a small number of luxury cars.

With CarPlay, drivers will be able to access their iTunes library, including music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio.

Users can control CarPlay with the car’s native interface, or just push and hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri.

For the time being, what was initially to be called iOS in the Car is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo autos being unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show.

Down the road, CarPlay will be in BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota vehicles.

What CarPlay can do

Apple says it was designed “from the ground up” to integrate mobile devices with cars equipped with voice-control capabilities.

“iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction,” says Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, in a statement.

Once iPhone is paired with a car with CarPlay, Siri can help a driver access contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails.

When incoming messages or notifications come in, Apple says, “Siri provides an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call.”

CarPlay also works with Maps, so Siri users can get spoken turn-by-turn directions while Maps appears on a car’s built-in display.

Apple says CarPlay will support certain third-party audio apps, including Spotify and iHeartRadio.

CarPlay is available as an update to iOS7, and works with iPhone 5S, 5C, and iPhone 5.

A few months ago, Google announced its plans to tether Android phones to several brands of cars by the end of the year.

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