Apple is adding a feature to CarPlay that’ll let drivers buy gas from their car’s dashboard. The feature is in its early stages for now, but the idea is to have a number of CarPlay apps that can navigate to gasoline stations, pay for gas and start the pump all through Apple’s own interface.
Apple quietly released the feature at its latest developer conference, WWDC22, according to Reuters. But it’s not the first time Apple has tried to cast a wider net among drivers. Indeed, if Apple can’t make its car a reality, then it’s going to trickle into the auto industry bit by bit through the goods and services market.
Apple calls this the fueling feature and it’s rolling out to developers now. The Cupertino company claims the idea for this gas at the dash feature came after CarPlay added EV charging apps, which could find charging stations and start the charging process. These apps were so successful, developers asked Apple for similar functionality for ICE-powered cars running CarPlay.
This could put Apple squarely between millions of drivers and gas pumps. And, of course, major oil companies are interested: HF Sinclair is already planning on using CarPlay to let drivers pay for and pump gas at its 1,600 U.S. gasoline stations. The draw for oil companies is scale, because when the feature rolls out they could reach millions of cars that are CarPlay compatible.
Car companies, though, might be less thrilled than the oil majors because this gives Apple a stronger foothold inside of the car. Reuters notes that carmakers have tried this before: GM tried to make in-dash gas payments popular in 2017 but failed miserably to make it stick. General Motors finally shuttered the project earlier this year citing supplier issues.
Meaning it took GM five years to throw in the towel on a car interface drivers could use to pay for gas. But we can pretty much guess why not many people used GM’s gas payment feature, or even knew about it: carmakers are lousy software developers. This has left an opening for tech companies like Apple and Google to step in with their alternatives.
Apple doesn’t charge carmakers or drivers to use CarPlay, but if (or when) these gas apps take off, Apple will take another slice of car commerce. And, really, this is just Apple being Apple. The tech giant loves to take advantage of a robust market (gasoline!) and elbow its way in through its platforms like CarPlay or the App Market — or both.
I swear, if Apple could find a backdoor through CarPlay to other goods and services that cars rely on, say, tires or oil changes, we’d probably see Goodyear and Jiffy Lube apps appear overnight. Vehicle infotainment has become a tech company world, and the car companies are just living in it.