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Apple today announced an automobile software platform, CarPlay, that allows iPhone owners to get directions, play music, and respond to text messages with their car’s built-in controls.

To use CarPlay, drivers must simply connect their iPhone to compatible vehicles and then use their car’s touchscreen display, button-and-dial controls, or the Siri voice-controlled assistant to interact with the device. They’re encouraged to use Siri instead of fiddling with other control mechanisms so they don’t end up hurting themselves because they wanted to respond to a text or take a call.

Some 16 auto manufacturers have announced their support for the platform and intend to announce CarPlay-compatible vehicles later this year. Taken together, these manufacturers represent the majority of the US automotive market. Apple isn’t just putting its “iOS in the Car” plans into gear: it’s holding the throttle against the floor and gunning it.

Reactions from around the Web

Time’s Harry McCracken writes that CarPlay is the most exciting Apple product released since Tim Cook became CEO in 2011:

Unlike a smartwatch or a TV, [CarPlay] may not count as the all-new product category that people are sitting around waiting for Apple to enter, but it’s closer than anything else Apple has done in the Tim Cook era.

ZDNet notes that CarPlay is hardly the first automotive software platform made by a large tech company:

The launch sees Apple joining rivals Nokia and Google in looking to take their software into vehicles.

Nokia’s Here navigation unit last year released the Here Connected Driving platform for car makers, became Toyota’s local search provider of choice and signed a deal with Mercedes-Benz that will see the pair work on self-driving cars together. Google meanwhile has been working on ‘autonomous vehicles’ for some time.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that in-vehicle technologies like CarPlay are becoming increasingly important to vehicle buyers:

In-vehicle technology is the top selling point for 39 percent of car buyers, more than twice the 14 percent who cited traditional performance measures such as power and speed as their first consideration, consulting company Accenture said in a study published in December.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington thinks that CarPlay will help Apple improve the all-important “usage” metric:

Apple touts usage at virtually every event these days; it uses this as a metric with merit, one in which it says you can actually glean more valuable information about user satisfaction than in something more general like total unit sales. CarPlay gives its users more excuses to venture away from the fold, even for temporary absences, and that’s bound to help push customer loyalty among iOS users even higher.