The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing Apple for anti-competitive behavior, and we just found out that CarPlay is a part of the case against the tech giant.

In the case filing, Threads user and Substack author George Orosz (@gergelyorosz_) spotted a section on Apple's in-car technology push. 

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The Automotive Software War

Car companies are struggling to decide what to do about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the one hand, consumers look for the technology, which typically beat using the car's native navigation or media system. On the other, they don't want their customers primarily interacting with an interface they don't own or control, which works and feels the same in every vehicle.

The filing describes CarPlay as another example of Apple leveraging its iPhone user base to drive out competition. It says CarPlay prevents the development of other "disintermediating technologies that interoperate with the phone but reside off device." But the most salacious bit was about the next-generation version of Carplay, which Orosz highlighted:


"Apple has told automakers that the next generation of Apple CarPlay will take over all of the screens, sensors, and gauges in a car, forcing users to experience driving as an iPhone-centric experience if they want to use any of the features provided by CarPlay," the complaint alleges.

That's scary sounding, but not quite true. While Orosz suggests this CarPlay "take over" may be why GM is cutting Apple out of its future products, that verbiage isn't quite right. According to an automotive manufacturer source with knowledge of the next-generation CarPlay implementation, Apple doesn't "take over" any part of the car. Rather, the car can provide pass-throughs to allow the Apple software to interact with its own displays, sensors, and gauges. For instance, if you want turn-by-turn directions to pop up in your gauge cluster, then yes your iPhone needs some access to it. The next version will also support things like adjusting the climate control or adjusting headlights through CarPlay, so CarPlay will be linked to those sensors. 

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But according to the source, there won't be a huge difference between how the car functions or looks with or without CarPlay enabled. You won't need a passcode to turn on your windshield wipers, and CarPlay will be an interface laid over the OEM's software interface, not something that circumvents it.

It is, however, a deeper integration of your phone into your vehicle. That alone may be enough for the DOJ to consider it anticompetitive. After all, if you can manage all of your car's settings through Apple software, are you really a Toyota infotainment user, or just another iPhone user who can bring the same software experience to any car? It may sound like a pointless distinction, but it's important to automakers. It's why Tesla, Rivian, GM and others don't want to integrate CarPlay. They want their software to feel distinct and consistent between their own vehicles but with unique selling points. They want to win the software war. 

Apple, meanwhile, wants your infotainment experience to be based on what phone you have, not the car itself. Whether you are a Toyota, Porsche, Subaru or BMW owner, they want you to be an iPhone user above all else. According to the DOJ, that isn't good for competition, innovation or consumers. The government is suing to rectify that. If it wins, expect big changes in the world of automotive infotainment. 

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