The long awaited launch of Apple CarPlay cars is finally happening, several months after the initial “iOS in the Car” project announcement of March 2014. For those keeping an eye on Apple technology, this is really the next big thing to come from Apple since the long anticipated Apple Watch of April of this year.

What is Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay is much like the Android Auto systems that you have already seen in select vehicles. Because in-car technology has the potential to age much more quickly than your car, it’s crucial for in-car technology to be designed in such a way that it can last the lifespan of your car. Apple AirPlay is a smart in-car “infotainment system” that was designed to stay up to date even as your car ages. Even as your Apple device continues to change, compatibility with your in-car system will not.

How does it work?

CarPlay is not an in-car system that runs iOS apps; rather, it’s a system that will integrate your iPhone apps with your car’s digital system, allowing you to control those apps more easily using in-car navigation. You’ll simply plug your iPhone into your car’s CarPlay system via a lightning cable, and your phone will integrate automatically. The screen will also automatically lock to eliminate any temptation to pick up your phone and use it while driving.

Apple CarPlay is designed to let you enjoy the functionality of your iPhone without you having to take your eyes off of the road.

What can CarPlay do?

CarPlay will allow you to enjoy certain components of iPhone functionality from the start, including phone, messaging, music, apps, videos, and Siri. This includes some select CarPlay compatible apps, including Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and Rdio. Apple plans to let third-party app developers build CarPlay compatibility into their apps, making them usable through the system. Of course, this will really only apply to those apps that might make driving more convenient when integrated into the CarPlay system.

What else do I need to know?

First, Apple CarPlay will only be compatible with iPhone 5 and later. Second, you can expect to see CarPlay integrated into both luxury and budget vehicles. This year, for example, you could get CarPlay in Ferrari, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles. In 2016, you’ll additionally find it in some Ford, Buick, and GM vehicles. Depending on the automaker and vehicle, CarPlay might be mostly touch screen, or it might favor physical buttons.