Non-driver review of CarPlay shows accessible infotainment systems help more than the driver
As a legally blind person, Apple CarPlay has long been one of those company deals that literally isn’t for me. My low vision is preventing me from getting a driver’s license and by extension a car, so what good would CarPlay do if I couldn’t drive a car to use it? I had a similar feeling towards Apple TV for many years. I have only had HDTVs at home for the past three years; Before that, there was little reason to get excited about (let alone cover) the streaming box and tvOS as I didn’t have a TV that could take full advantage of its capabilities.
As fate willed it, my girlfriend’s dad is on a two-month trip across part of the country in his motorhome this summer. He is not due home until September, so he graciously lets us keep his brand new Nissan Rogue Sport 2021 waiting. The vehicle supports CarPlay via USB, and I have used the software a lot while driving a shotgun over the past two weeks. I made my peace a long time ago with the fact that my disability prevents me from living behind the wheel and the freedom it offers. I am happy to report that I have delightfully discovered during my brief stay with CarPlay that infotainment systems are very relevant to me as a passenger.
It turns out that CarPlay is much more accessible and much more enjoyable than Nissan’s software.
This is not an exaggeration. Others with more experience using CarPlay can surely testify to its shortcomings and what needs to be improved. As a visually impaired person, however, I can say for sure that CarPlay is the best infotainment system that I have ever used. Navigating the user interface, as well as literally navigating somewhere, is a much more accessible experience than using Nissan’s built-in operating system. Not only does CarPlay’s iOS fundamentals allow for comfort and familiarity on a conceptual level, but the large icons and text make it easy to tap and swipe. All in all, CarPlay is significantly better.
Consider, for example, navigation. My girlfriend will often task me to direct me to a place where she needs directions. In his own car, a 2013 Honda Civic, I typically use Maps on his iPhone XS to announce turns and highway exits etc. (Honda’s infotainment system has a screen, but it’s basic and doesn’t have navigation.) It works, but it’s tedious and stressful for me as an anointed navigator. In addition, the lack of a screen causes us to lack hearing and visual feedback while traveling in an unfamiliar area. Compare this setup with using CarPlay in the SUV, and it’s not hard to see why I’m so bullish on Apple’s tech. It really makes a difference day and night in terms of ease of use and, especially for me, accessibility.
When we get in the car, I plug my girlfriend’s phone into Lightning and the CarPlay UI immediately pops up. I can then search for a location in Maps on the phone and the directions show on CarPlay after pressing Go. Because the CarPlay interface is so big (especially compared to iPhone), it can both hear and see where we need to go. My navigation duties are over, at least until we need to return the car. The benefits are twofold: I have less stress and cognitive load on me; and she, as a driver, has much better means of getting from point A to point B. In practice, CarPlay has fundamentally changed the way we use the car.
Apple rightly made CarPlay functionally fairly simple; what you can do is limited to audio-centric activities like listening to music and podcasts, as well as using Siri to handle calls and recite text messages. My stepfather has Sirius XM via the Nissan operating system (he says he is “perfectly happy with 20th century technology” and adamantly refuses to upgrade his flip phone to an iPhone), so we listened to music via the radio satellite instead of the Music app. Maps is CarPlay’s killer app, but that’s only the early days. We are compelled to further explore the capabilities of CarPlay as we use it.
To a large extent, Apple’s automotive solution shows just how poorly car manufacturers have designed their on-board software systems. Even for an able-bodied person, the Nissan operating system is a confusing and incongruous mess. There was apparently no attention paid to a good UI design, no matter how good it was. accessible design. In contrast, CarPlay is a triumph in terms of clarity, responsiveness and user-friendliness. It might not be perfect, but it absolutely circles around Nissan. Above all, it still serves as an example. Apple is a software company at heart.
Whether a disabled person benefits from CarPlay depends on their disability. CarPlay doesn’t support VoiceOver, so a totally blind person is unlikely to benefit much. Likewise, the ability to manipulate the user interface will largely depend on the strength of one’s fine motor skills. And of course, whether one can use Siri competently will depend on the nature of his speech delay and the assistant’s ability to analyze it. All in all, however, CarPlay is indeed a compelling infotainment solution for disabled passengers who struggle to use anything an automaker has built. From choosing music to getting places and more, CarPlay has ramifications that affect more than just the person who actually drives the car.