On last week’s episode of 9to5Mac Happy Hour, I complained about an ongoing CarPlay problem I’ve been experiencing on and off for nearly a year. Essentially, the GPS continually bugs out and completely breaks navigation via Apple Maps, Google Maps, or any other navigation app.
Since last week’s Happy Hour episode was released (listen here), I’ve heard from a lot of CarPlay users who are facing similar problems with GPS performance.
For reference, I use CarPlay in my Ford Mustang Mach-E, but the problem does not appear to be exclusive to the Mach-E. It does not appear to be exclusive to Ford. It does not appear to be exclusive to electric cars. It’s a widespread bug that affects CarPlay users in various different cars, but not everyone. It affects both wired and wireless CarPlay.
The bug is simple: When connected via CarPlay, the GPS functionality is unreliable. This manifests itself in a handful of different ways:
First, sometimes the GPS connection will totally freeze and stop updating. The little direction arrow just stops updating, and the map gets stuck wherever that happens. This means turn-by-turn directions stop updating. This has happened to me many times, and I end up driving and not realizing that I was supposed to take an exit or make a turn many miles ago.
Second, the GPS location just freaks out, for lack of a better term. I’ll be driving down the highway, then look over at CarPlay and see that CarPlay thinks I’m driving in the middle of a field. Or driving in a river. Or driving miles away from where I actually am at that moment. It sporadically jumps around and moves back and forth. Again, this completely messes up turn-by-turn directions. Apple Maps gets confused and starts giving completely random instructions, thinking you’ve ventured off the original route.
Third, sometimes the GPS location indicator switches to the big circle radius. CarPlay thinks I’m somewhere inside that circle, but it doesn’t know exactly where. This breaks turn-by-turn directions. After all, Apple Maps can’t give you accurate directions if it has no idea where you actually are.
This problem has been plaguing my CarPlay experience for nearly a year, ever since I first got my Mach-E last November. And again, it’s not exclusive to the Mach-E. Here are some links to other CarPlay users experiencing the same problem:
As you can see, there doesn’t appear to be any pattern for what cars are affected by this problem. Many of the complaints seem to correlate to last year’s release of iOS 16, but the bugs have persisted since then – including with iOS 17. The problems don’t appear to be linked to any specific iPhone model, with complaints coming from iPhone XS through iPhone 15 users alike.
I’ve tried everything imaginable and checked every single setting that I can think of. My car’s firmware is up to date, my phone is up to date, and Google Maps and Apple Maps have all the necessary location/privacy permissions.
In my time battling this problem, I’ve come across two temporary workarounds.
Most recently, I discovered what seems to be the most reliable fix yet: Begin the navigation in Apple Maps/Google Maps/etc. on your iPhone before you connect your phone to CarPlay. This appears to significantly reduce the chances that CarPlay will bug out and ruin your navigation directions. That’s far from an ideal fix, but it does seem to work more often than not.
I’ve also noticed that if the CarPlay GPS connection breaks, you can temporarily “wake it up” by unlocking your iPhone and opening whatever navigation app you’re using. This gets things back on track for a few minutes before they inevitably fall apart again.
This is a really, really bad problem. One of the chief purposes of CarPlay is to provide accurate and reliable turn-by-turn navigation information. For many people, CarPlay is failing at this.
It’s also a dangerous problem. In the last two weeks, the CarPlay GPS has completely broken for me while driving in Dallas and Austin, leaving me in chaotic traffic with no directions on where to go or how to get to my destination.
Luckily, my wife was in the car with me and was able to pull up directions on her phone. What if I had been alone in the car? The safest solution would be to pull off the road and try to fix the problem.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to write about this, but here I am. Hopefully, this post draws some attention and can force Apple’s hand to actually address what seems to be a dangerous months-old CarPlay bug.
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