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by Matt Campbell

The Apple CarPlay infotainment system that debuted just last week at the Geneva motor show has already drawn criticism from safety experts.

The new media unit – which is available to order in the Ferrari FF, and will also be offered in the all-new Volvo XC90 and in future Mercedes-Benz models – essentially allows owners to control their iPhone’s functions through the car’s dashboard. It allows hands-free calls via the Siri voice control system, text message dictation, access to Apple’s iTunes Radio streaming service – all of which are designed so you “never have to look at your iPhone while driving”.

The US National Safety Council’s senior director David Teater said that rather than curb distraction, the CarPlay system could indeed add to it.

“We’re very, very concerned about it,” said Teater. “The auto industry and the consumer electronics industry are really in an arms race to see how we can enable drivers to do stuff other than driving.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s manager of research and communications, Bruce Hamilton, had similar comments about the new system.

“The idea that people want to be on their phones, and therefore let’s give them a way to do that – that’s not putting safety first, that’s putting convenience and the desire to be in touch first,” Hamilton said.

Apple CarPlay

Apple vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, Greg Joswiak, said prior to its official unveiling at the Geneva motor show that CarPlay was about allowing drivers to enjoy their iPhone while staying safe.

“CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Joswiak. “iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimised distraction.”

Apple said the system will be seen in Honda and Hyundai models by the end of 2014, while BMW, Chevrolet, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, OpelPeugeot, SubaruSuzuki and Toyota are all committed to offering the technology in the future.