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The Apple Watch launched earlier this year promising that it might not replace the iPhone (just yet) but it could soon replace our car keys, and it looks like the car industry is coming along for the ride.
Several automakers, including BMW and Porsche, have created apps for the Apple Watch that integrate rather nicely with their most-advanced vehicles. From basic lock and unlock capabilities to guiding drivers to the exact spot where they parked their car, these new Apple Watch apps might reinvent the way we interact with our vehicles.
Apple chose BMW to be its launch partner and create the very first car app for the Apple Watch. The automaker was given early access to the Watch software so it could fine-tune its BMW i Remote Watch app before unveiling it to the world. The app was demoed during Apple’s Watch event and featured in the promo spot for Apple’s first smartwatch. So it makes sense that the BMW Watch app includes all the standard bells and whistles you’d imagine when controlling your car with your wrist, like locking and unlocking using your Watch and guiding back to where your vehicle is parked.
The BMW app also has a “preconditioning” feature that lets you turn on the heater or the air conditioning before stepping into the car, so you never have to shiver each time you touch the steering wheel or feel like you’re stepping into a hot sauna on a sunny day. The BMW i Remote Watch app only connects with BMW’s electric i3 and hybrid i8 model, which allow you to see how charged your BMW is, how far you can drive before needing to recharge, and where to find nearby charging stations while on the road. BMW owners will also need to sign up to BMW’s ConnectedDrive digital services to be able to use the Apple Watch features.
Just because BMW got an Apple-sanctioned head start when creating its Apple Watch app doesn’t mean that other automakers haven’t caught up with just-as-innovative Watch features. Take for example the world-class app designed by Porsche. In addition to remote lock/unlock, climate-control system and fuel status (or battery charge for electric or hybrid models), the Porsche Car Connect Watch app also lets drivers adjust the side-view mirrors, check the tire pressure, and make sure that the car doors, windows, trunk lid, and sunroof are all closed to prevent intruders from breaking in.
The “Find My Car” GPS locator on the Porsche Watch app is so precise that it even offers step-by-step walking directions if you’re inside a large or confusing garage or parking lot. When the driver is close enough, he or she can use the Watch app to beep the horn or flash the lights just to make sure you’re getting into the right Porsche. Porsche Car Connect works with certain 2014-or-newer Cayenne, Macan, Panamera or 918 Spyder models.
It’s not just the owners of luxury sports cars or roadsters that can benefit from getting an Apple Watch. In late May, Hyundai’s BlueLink service released apps for the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Although it seems like Hyundai is coming late to the party, the automaker was actually the first to have a smartwatch app on the market, albeit it was only for Android Wear, the Google-powered devices. Now for Apple Watch, Hyundai’s BlueLink app boasts similar features: it lets you start, lock, and find your car. The one thing that sets BlueLink apart from other Apple Watch apps for cars is that it lets you use Siri voice command to remote control your car.
Just to show that you don’t always have to drive the latest car model off the lot to make the most out of new technology, Hyundai has equipped a lot of its range of vehicles with BlueLink, even older models ranging back to 2012; however, Hyundai owners will need a subscription to BlueLink to utilize these connected features.
Volkswagen has rolled several must-have components into its feature-laden Car-Net app for the Apple Watch. First we have all the basics: remote lock/unlock, GPS locator, and fuel/battery charge check. But VW also gives its Watch app an interesting feature that could prove very popular with parents of teenagers. With Car Net, parents will get alert notifications to their Apple Watch every time the car reaches past a certain speed or travels past certain boundaries—making it literally impossible for young drivers to go on a joyride behind their parents’ backs. VW Car-Net is available on select 2014-and-newer VW Beetle, CC, Eos, Jetta, Passat, and Tiguan models and on all 2015-and-newer Golf, Golf GTI, Golf R, Golf SportWagen, and e-Golf electric models.
With all these automakers embracing all the capabilities of Apple’s first smartwatch, it’s surprising to see that Tesla Motors, often considered an innovative force in making electric cars, has not yet released an Apple Watch app for Tesla owners. Luckily in the realm of technology, where there’s a will there’s an app. Software development firm ELEKS has stepped in and created an Apple Watch app for controlling the Tesla Model S. The third-party app allows Tesla owners to tap into all the smartwatch-enabled features available to electric cars made by BMW, Porsche, and VW.
If you’re a Ford driver with an Apple Watch getting road rage just reading about all these connected services, don’t trade in your Mustang just yet.
“Nothing to share yet, but it’s some exciting stuff,” Ford spokesman Alan Hall told USA Today when asked about the automaker’s Apple Watch plans. But what could be more exciting than not having to call AAA to let you in your car the next time you get locked out and leave the keys inside?