Apple Car? Meet Volkswagen’s iBeetle

By Phill Powell

In the iBeetle, Facebook messages are read aloud, while iTunes (and Pandora for those with unlimited data plans) replaces Sirius Radio.

At the recent Shanghai Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled the iBeetle Coup and iBeetle Convertible. Both cars will arrive at Volkswagen dealerships in early 2014. The cars mark Apple’s first foray into the automotive world and they are an interesting take on being a “mobile phone.”

The move is exciting news for app developers who already make driving- related apps. In fact, it’s estimated that the Top Ten Car Apps make hundreds of millions in revenue for Apple’s App Store.

Baby, You Can Drive My iCar
The main attraction for the iBeetle? The car’s complete integration with Apple’s iPhone. And for those of us who live to have their lives integrated with Apple products, this is a way to make even your driving experience enhanced by Apple. It doesn’t drive or park itself or fly. But the car does share travel times through an app, as well as share photos from the road. It also does a a lot of other cool things:

Communication Station: The iBeetle’s main attraction is its iPhone docking station. This lets drivers make calls hands-free, summon up songs for the drive with iTunes, read your Facebook and send voice-activated SMS messages while you drive. It also works with Spotify.

Postcard: One cool feature of the iBeetle is Postcard, which perfectly supports the driver’s use of social media. Postcard sends a digital message to all specified friends, letting them know exactly where you currently are, to the point of including an actual map in the message. (This would be a great feature for parents who want to be able to track their kids’ progress on the road during trips.) Postcard performs a couple of other tricks, as well, such as showing various engine gauges. It also contains a compass and chronometer.

Shots from the Road: Here’s another feature that will score a direct hit with social-media users. The car’s “Photo” feature shoots pix of you while you ride along, then sends them out over social networks.

Self-Monitoring: The iBeetle features some impressive diagnostic functions, such as an “Expert” mode where you can keep constant check on your car’s performance. Another mode (“Trainer”) lets you compare the fuel efficiency of different routes to the same destination. The car even compliments you when complete certain tasks, through a “Milestones” mode.

Official Apple Colors: Part of what makes Apple products successful is their sleek appearance—built around familiar black-and-white color schemes. Accordingly, the iBeetle models will be available in those exact same familiar hues: “black monochrome,” “deep black pearl effect,” “platinum grey,” “reflex silver,” “onyx white” and “candy white.” Finally, now your wheels can match your iPod!

Interior Design: Inside the ride, Apple’s traditional colors are also found. The interiors we’ve seen so far are grey and feature sports seats in bold black (“Vienna”) leather with cream-colored seams. Super-sharp…

With a cool, futuristic interior design, the iBeetle is loaded up with enhancements.

Computers Hit the Road
Decades ago, the most complicated electronics gadget found on most American automobiles was an AM radio. Today, cars have built-in GPS, proximity detection and complex on-board computers that monitor everything form cabin temperature to tire pressure. Automobile makers know that the road to future sales include more integrated technology in their vehicles.

The complex computer systems throughout your car control everything from engine performance to exhaust emissions. The new computing/communications technologies onboard the iBeetle are part of a technology wave sweeping the automobile industry. The future will undoubtedly bring forth more technologies—along with future opportunities for those with computer skills.