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Demonstrating how Apple’s CarPlay will be integrated into upcoming budget vehicles, Harman has shown the Integrated Essentials Cockpit, a new OEM solution that does away with direct touchscreen interaction in favor of a steering wheel-mounted touchpad. The Integrated Essentials Cockpit eliminates the currently popular center console-mounted screen, instead bringing Apple’s CarPlay interface directly into the dashboard behind the steering wheel.

Unusually, the CarPlay UI then sits between a left-side speedometer and a right-side tachometer, below a bar with a thermometer and above a fuel gauge and odometer. More pictures and details are below.

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What’s different about this particular CarPlay system is the complete lack of direct touchscreen interaction once your iPhone is connected. All input is registered using a touchpad built into the steering wheel, an example of which is shown below. Indirect finger gestures – including swiping and tapping – are required to move between CarPlay app icons, select everything on screen, and so on.

The major benefit of the system is to enable a car manufacturer to eliminate the need for two screens — one in front of the steering wheel and one in the center console — while preserving the same basic functionality. A driver can stop glancing towards the middle of the car for touchscreen interactions.

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Although it’s a single-screen system, the Integrated Essentials Cockpit has been designed to avoid problems that might come up when bringing CarPlay together with a car’s other computer systems. Major risks, such as having a faulty CarPlay connection break speedometer or odometer functionality, have been eliminated in Harman’s implementation by running CarPlay in a “hypervisor” – a sandboxed window inside the rest of the computer system. If CarPlay crashes or hangs, everything else continues to run properly.

On the other hand, the touchpad-based UI requires a lot of additional gestures (swipe right, right, right, down) that would normally be accomplished with a single tap. The Integrated Essentials Cockpit therefore isn’t a premium option; it’s there solely for carmakers who want to add CarPlay inexpensively.

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