About all those CarPlay runs on QNX stories...

There are some stories floating around about CarPlay being run by, powered by, or something by QNX, BlackBerry's embedded operating system division. A better way to phrase it is that CarPlay "takes over the user experience" of in-vehicule infotainment systems running QNX. Here's the thing: Apple doesn't make or license embedded operating systems for smart cars just like they don't make or license embedded operating systems for TVs. They simply hook into what's already there, be it a Ferrari or a Panasonic, via CarPlay or Apple TV.

Sure, there are substantial differences. Hooking into TVs is unidirectional, has been done for decades, and currently benefits from the ubiquitous HDMI standard. Hooking into cars is bidirectional, relatively new, and there's no equivalent standard. Controlling an in-car display is also much more complicated, since they vary so much, requiring conduits for Siri, touch, and/or the various dash controls.

Given all that, when a car company partners with Apple, the QNX team (or maybe the embedded Android team or whomever runs the infotainment system) absolutely has to make sure everything that CarPlay needs is in place. That's why Apple works with them. Which is pretty much what they had to do in the past, albeit in a much simpler way, for the old iPod connectors (opens in new tab) program.

There's a huge advantage to this approach. If you have an iPhone, you get in, plug in, CarPlay comes up, and you go. If you don't have an iPhone, you get in and whatever infortainment experience the manufacturer has built-in comes up. Everyone is happy.

If Apple made the whole stack, it'd be different. Apple would either have to get the car company to agree to iPhone exclusivity — which seems highly unlikely — or the car company would have to get Apple to agree to build in support for Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and feature phones — which seems downright unimaginable. In other words, no one would be happy.

That CarPlay would work this way has been obvious and apparent since its introduction back in June of 2013. That it's getting attention now is likely only because BlackBerry bought QNX a few years ago and linking competitors makes for sensational headlines. (Apple sources a lot of their device components from Samsung, so just wait until everyone re-remembers that!)

I looked for but couldn't find specific information on whether or not QNX is first, best, or simply getting the most attention as infortaiment software CarPlay takes over. There are other Microsoft, Android, and Linux based alternatives in the automotive and infotainment space as well. Either way, I have nothing but respect for QNX. It's an amazing real-time operating system that's proven itself on everything from automobiles to nuclear power plants to smartphones. Likewise, great work by anyone and everyone building the embedded systems that let CarPlay do what CarPlay does.

But really, what runs the infortainment system is about as relevant to a CarPlay user as what runs the smart TV interface is to an Apple TV user. That's its job.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Hi Rene, good article and I learned a few things. However I'm not sure what the point of the article is? Are you upset that QNX is getting some of the headlines? I believe the other Internet articles you are referring to are the BlackBerry fan sites so are you at all surprised that they have dug this up and are reporting it? I don't think they detracted away from what Apple has achieved here. Also, I think they were a little surprised that Apple got there first when the embedded system ran their beloved QNX! Although, it would be nice to see BlackBerry release something first/early/ontime!
  • It's more I think the sensationalist headlines and mis-reporting. Cars retaining QNX means that the onboard systems should (in theory) still be able to connect to other smartphones for bluetooth voice calls, music streaming etc.
  • I still don't see the point of this article, Apple too gets sensationalist headlines and mis-reporting pretty often, why can't BlackBerry/QNX, considering it's mis-reporting, which I doubt.
    QNX have a lot of experience with cars, embedded systems, stability and security, it would be logical for Apple to partner up with QNX to deliver something polished and stable from the start, instead of stating from scratch and enhancing it over time (remember Maps?)
  • ROFL, so your argument is for sensationalism? wow.. thats a first. You might as well as say, "He nuked me, so I should nuke them and we all glow all the time! :D"
  • QNX has driven iPod connected car systems for years. Nothing new here, except CarPlay is far more elaborate.
  • You learned something and you're not sure what the point was? That's it, turn this internet around right now, I'm getting off! :) (QNX is terrific, it's kinda sad it's only getting attention when Apple writes all over it.)
  • Hi, I wasn't trying to be clever, just honest! You helped me understand a little about embedded OS's which I was thanking you for. However I was left unsure as to the final point/conclusion. Is it that CarPlay will work with other embedded systems or that QNX hasn't really brought anything to the party? Have read more on the subject today it would appear that CarPlay is using Mirrorlink which QNX developed with RealVNC. If so, without this key technology there would not be Car play? Please correct me if I'm wrong!
  • This article is 100% wrong, it was announced in a press release that Carplay is in fact running on QNX. Come one Rene stop lying to your followers BlackBerry's Paul Leroux confirmed that CarPlay works alongside the QNX systems installed in many cars.
    Here's a quote from the press release:
    "Connectivity to smartphones and other mobile devices is a key strength of QNX Software Systems' platform for car infotainment systems, and many automakers and tier one automotive suppliers use our platform to implement smartphone/head-unit integration in their vehicles. We have a long-standing partnership with Apple to ensure high-quality connectivity with their devices, and this partnership extends to support for Apple CarPlay.
    CarPlay, which requires an iPhone to function, can be likened to Apple's AirPlay, mirroring the iPhone's display and functionality to the existing in-car infotainment system." Since CarPlay was announced yesterday, multiple manufacturers, including Volvo, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz have shown off vehicles with CarPlay integration. Other manufacturers, such as Honda, Jaguar, Hyundai, and more, are expected to launch vehicles with CarPlay support in 2014.
  • No, it was not announced that CarPlay "runs on QNX." Read Leroux's statement again. CarPlay runs on, and is a function of, Apple's iOS.
  • Would it not be better for in-vehicule[sic] infotainment if the system can connect to any device, not just an iphone? I, like you am interested to see what car-makers can do to improve infotainment. Hopefully, cutting edge hardware offered by the like of the new Porsche 918 Spyder will eventually drip down to the wider consumer marketplace. In your last paragraph you dismiss the relevance of your own article.
  • I disagree. He is simply reporting that, hey, the car is running QNX, or some other OS, and getting in the car with no phone? Nothing changes (internet CarPlay over-reaction #1, IMHO). If you plug in an iPhone 5+? CarPlay takes over, regardless of screen size, resolution or input method. So, really, for non-iPhone users, nothing has changed. The reason this article was written, I would guess, is because of all the freaking out on both sides, when the reality is, as important as CarPlay is? This isn't reinventing the industry. Sent from the iMore App
  • For an end user, the interface is the app. All they'll see is CarPlay. QNX can be terrific with or without that component. Re-read the last 'graph :)
  • HDMI _is_ a bidirectional protocol. You have HDMI-CEC for commands and it can also transmit audio back (and even share ethernet). So in theory, one might even be able to implement CarPlay over HDMI : iPhone/iPad pushes the audiovideo signal over the HDMI classical interface while button press and touchscreen events are sent via HDMI-CEC and HDMI-ARC would be used for dictation.
    And the car would be able to use the phone data connection via Ethernet over HDMI. So CarPlay is VERY close to HDMI actually :)
  • In other words, CarPlay is an app, not an OS.
  • It's a projection of a collection of apps. Probably why CarPlay is a better term than iOS in the car.
  • One analogy I read today was that it was like the BlackBerry PlayBook with Bridge which would minor your BBOS apps onto the other device. But in CarPlay it needs a cable. Oldschool!
  • It needs a cable - for now. There is a WiFi version coming.
  • This is a proper infotainment system. 2015 Audi TT: http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Wlm6lD23d0g Posted via the Android iMore App! on BlackBerry Z30
  • On 9to5Mac they're questioning the implementation as with CarPlay you'll be dealing with two interfaces - the cars embedded infotainment OS and Apple's. They're also comparing it to the ROKR because Apple doesn't control the hardware. My guess is 1) Apple was not interested in designing an imbedded OS that would need to work with competitor devices. 2) No way would car manufacturers lock themselves down with an OS that only supported iOS devices. And probably wouldn't give Apple control over hardware either.
  • double post sorry/..
  • I really don't get what you're problem is with this Rene. Maybe you can link to some of the "offending" articles, because saying CarPlay runs on QNX seems pretty accurate, whether it also runs on other things or not. It's little more than glorified app that automatically runs when you plug in an iPhone. As for you're TV reference, if Apple TV was built into my TV and I could choose to run it or some other streaming service from the core OS of the TV, you know what I'd call Apple TV? An App. It isn't a standalone OS, it's a program that runs on a OS that is already in the car. A lot of people call those "Apps" these days. Saying it "takes over", as you did in the article, isn't quite right, at least not more so than BBM "takes over" an iPhone when you open the app. From what I've seen it only runs the Apple related things, and using other car related functions like climate control require using the core OS. For example, in the Volvo video CarPlay only opens in a portion of the screen, and the driver still actively uses the underlying OS (Android in this case I think). All that said, I really don't get the big deal with CarPlay in the first place. Maybe you can have a more in depth article about it, but I haven't seen it do anything I can't do just using a phone mount and a Bluetooth connection to my car stereo.
  • When all of this hullaballoo broke out over CarPlay running on QNX, on the controversy that it was somehow dependent on BlackBerry to work, I immediately saw it as the tempest in a teapot that it was. The fact is, that QNX predates BlackBerry, RIM, iOS, Mac OS X, and even Windows -- it's been in embedded systems for _decades_.
    So BlackBerry happened to have purchased the company in recent years -- so what? It was already an ubiquitous embedded OS long before RIM was even a thought.
    Thanks, Rene -- I appreciate your trying to clear some of this would-be controversy up.
  • Regardless how long Qnx was in existence, it was already owned by BlackBerry by the time apple came along with carplay, the Qnx neutrino Os is embedded in the carplay system whether you like it or not, the fact is that the system relies on QNX which happens to be owned by BlackBerry. This silly article is the only contradictory writeup spewing controversy on the matter because the author is an immature fanboy. Hardware-QNX-mobile device gateway with Qnx subsystems running along the side as well. No QNX=NO CARPLAY. wewewewe
  • Ya a lot of really bad reporting on this on other sites, good that we're setting the record straight. Notice how Crackberry, the #1 site for Blackberry news did not publish this story. That's because their editors have enough sense to do 10 seconds of research The funny thing is, the original quote, taken in its original context, doesn't make or even allude to any of the claims being made in some of the articles that are quoting it.
  • "A better way to phrase it is that CarPlay "takes over the user experience" of in-vehicule infotainment
    systems running QNX." Phrase it however you want, just one question. What operating system is in used here?