How We Brought Waze to the Apple CarPlay Dashboard
Inside the design process that put Waze functionality on CarPlay’s main screen
Under the Hood gives you an inside look at different parts of how Waze works — straight from the people working on them every day.
Driving can be stressful enough on its own. It doesn’t help when you’re distracted by your phone, looking up directions, trying to find the right song, or worse, stuck in traffic, with no idea when it’ll end. That’s why I find it so rewarding to make people’s time on the road a little more enjoyable. The CarPlay Dashboard integration is a great example of how we try to do that.
Seamless driving with Apple CarPlay
My team and I have been working with Apple on our CarPlay integration for about three years. As more cars come with CarPlay support, it’s grown to become one of our most popular features, and it really does make driving and navigation more seamless. The CarPlay Dashboard goes a step further and makes all the other things you need on your drive more convenient to use.
Historically, you could only have one app open on the CarPlay screen at a time. With the CarPlay Dashboard, all your favorite apps are at your fingertips, so you can keep your eyes on the road. Now, your map is placed next to your music app, so you can safely deejay your drive. And you can see your next calendar appointment without having to fiddle around or toggle between apps. That’s huge for driver safety and minimizing distractions, most importantly, but it also just makes driving a smoother experience.
We’d heard loud and clear from our Community that they wanted Waze on their CarPlay Dashboard, so people were excited when it launched. This meant undergoing a design process and partnership with Apple to understand what drivers really needed to see most.
Striking the right balance for CarPlay Dashboard
At one point, we thought about adding every Waze feature to the CarPlay experience, but ultimately, we decided against that. Together with Apple, we narrowed our focus to what’s absolutely essential to driving because there’s limited real estate in the CarPlay Dashboard. That’s why the map uses half the screen space — it’s the most important element.
Obviously, we knew we had to include turn-by-turn directions. We decided to prioritize lane guidance, too, so you know which lane to be in as you drive.
We also wanted to include a few Waze features people are particularly fond of, like the Waze Speedometer. Every car has its own speedometer, but a lot of people trust and appreciate the accuracy of the Waze Speedometer, which helps them quickly see whether they’re going over the limit. It’s also easy to see on the navigation map, which is one less place you have to look while driving. There was an early version of the integration that didn’t have the Speedometer, but our users really pushed for it, and I’m glad we included it.
And of course, users still need to submit reports. That’s such a big part of what makes Waze unique. Getting reports from the community is essential — we wanted to make it as simple as possible while making sure drivers could keep their eyes on the road. Screen sizes in a car are generally much larger than on a mobile device, so we made the icons for submitting reports much larger in CarPlay. This makes each report type easier to find while you’re on the go.
In the end, those were the features that stood out as essential, so we stripped away everything else.
Building a strong partnership with Apple
Apple has very specific guidelines and templates for CarPlay, so we worked closely with them to make sure we could adapt the Waze UI and UX elements accordingly while maintaining the familiar Waze brand look and feel that people know and love. That way drivers are getting the best of both worlds.
From start to finish, developing the CarPlay Dashboard integration took us about 10 months. Design and UX was the most time-consuming element as well as engineering, quality assurance, and testing. Of course, we had to make sure it worked properly for our users actually driving in the real world.
We worked with hundreds of beta testers who used the integration on a variety of car types, makes, and models in different countries. Typically, we expect the community to report lots of bugs during their testing, but the most upvoted “bug” wasn’t even a bug. It was: “Game changer with Dashboard support. Excellent news. I shall be using it today.”
Easier driving (jam sessions optional)
Now every time you get in your car, you can just plug in your iPhone (or connect wirelessly if your car supports it), put your destination in Waze, and the CarPlay Dashboard takes care of the rest. If you’ve already added your destination ahead of time, you’ll see it on the CarPlay Dashboard when you plug in your phone. And if you’re looking for parking while you’re driving, you’ll see parking options on the map. So when you’re behind the wheel, you won’t have to keep flipping back and forth between your phone and the road or think about anything else.
Ready to use Waze on CarPlay Dashboard?
If you don’t have Waze, download the app today. If you have Waze and your car supports CarPlay, it’s easy to give it a try on your next drive: just plug in your iPhone or connect wirelessly if your car supports it, add your destination, and hit the road.