Volvo’s latest over-the-air update will improve the Apple CarPlay experience in more than 650,000 cars. The automaker will better integrate Apple’s features throughout the cabin, putting more information in the driver display while tweaking the feature’s layout on the center infotainment screen.
The most significant update allows the driver display to natively support Apple Maps and other navigation applications, putting the information behind the steering wheel. The screen can also present call information, allowing drivers to answer, reject, and end calls using their vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls.
The center screen isn’t left out, with Volvo offering a new call mute button on the display. The automaker also updates the CarPlay tile, which now displays media information and allows easy access to the app’s play, pause, and skip controls. Those who don’t use CarPlay can look forward to deciding whether the mirrors should fold when locking the car.
Volvo will also make other changes that “include minor engine calibration optimizations and bug fixes,” which sounds more like an update for a phone than a car. The update is only available on Volvo models with Google built-in, and features might differ between markets.
Over-the-air updates allow automakers nearly endless freedom in updating how users interact with their vehicles. It also gives them immense control over the experience, with subscriptions and paywalls locking features and performance capability behind an additional fee. But updates can also bring new features to already sold vehicles.
The Polestar 2 had an available update late last year that added 69 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque. The extra power wasn’t free, costing an additional $1,195 for the upgrade, bringing the EVs total output to 476 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque and lowering the car’s zero-to-60 time from 4.5 to 4.2 seconds. Is that worth $1,100?
It’ll be a question customers will be increasingly asking themselves in the years to come as the screens in your car become a future battleground for your time, attention, and money. The digital experience offered in today’s vehicles matters more than ever, and automakers want to control it. General Motors announced it’d be dropping support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, designing its own in-vehicle operating system, which doesn’t bode well for future interoperability between the devices millions of people already own and tomorrow’s high-tech cars.