UPDATE: Apple’s iOS Comes to Your Car via CarPlay Infotainment System, iPhone 5 and up Supported

As has been widely rumored for the past few months, Apple today announced its CarPlay initiative that aims to bring iPhone functionality and capabilities to your automobile. Although Apple doesn’t make it directly clear, CarPlay is NOT meant as an all-or-nothing replacement operating system for what comes pre-installed on your automobile; it’s simply an easy-to-use interface that allows you get to get the most out of your iOS device.

CarPlay allows you to access your music, email messages, texts, calendar and contacts information all while using Siri voice commands (a dedicated Siri steering wheel button is required for CarPlay certification). And naturally, you can take full advantage of your smartphone’s built-in GPS to use for navigation duty. In addition, a few third-party apps are along for the ride as well including Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Stitcher.

CarPlay takes over your car’s touchscreen display and give you an interface —including a virtual Home button — that is instantly familiar to iOS users. But Apple also says you’re not limited to just using the touch screen controls and voice commands — you can also use your car’s existing physical controls to navigate the CarPlay interface.

In order for users to be able to interface with CarPlay, they will need a Lightning cable and an iPhone 5 or newer smartphone from Apple. And of course, you’ll need a compatible vehicle. Manufacturers that are currently onboard for 2014 include Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.
Support in the future will come from BMW/Mini, General Motors, Ford, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.

Updated 3/3/2014 @ 3:28pm EST
Volvo has just posted a video that shows how CarPlay works in the real world: