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Apple software to drive smart Ferrari

Henry Foy and Daniel Thomas

First the mobile phone, now the car. Having revolutionised personal communication Apple now wants to change the way we drive.

The technology group will next week launch its first in-car operating system with Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo as it attempts to take the lead in a fierce race to dominate tomorrow's smart cars.

The breakthrough comes amid a swirl of market rumours that Apple could be eyeing a bid for electric carmaker Tesla Motors. Google and other technology companies are already working on plans to develop their own car models alongside traditional automotive manufacturers.

The deal marks the first time that Apple is embedding its software in devices other than its own branded products. The choice of the Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz is seen to be in keeping with the US tech group's high-end phones.

Apple's head of internet software and services, Eddy Cue, joined the Ferrari board in 2012, saying at the time that he had "personally dreamed of owning a Ferrari since I was 8 years old and have been lucky to be an owner for the past 5 years."

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Cars connected to the internet and seamlessly integrated with personal communication devices are seen as the harbingers of vehicles that can drive themselves, mobile offices and "mobility solutions" for cities where all vehicles are controlled or monitored from a central database.

Carmakers are engaged in a fierce battle for control of car dashboards as incumbents fight with technology companies such as Microsoft and IBM to develop the software systems that will power the connected cars of tomorrow.

Rupert Stadler, chairman of Audi, used his keynote speech at January's Consumer Electronics Forum, the technology industry's annual symposium, to herald a new era of "connected cars" that would see automobiles become "the largest social mobile devices we own."

The official announcement of Apple's deal will be made at next week's Geneva Motor Show, sources told the Financial Times. A number of other manufacturers are expected to incorporate it into models in 2014. Apple, and the carmakers declined to comment

Drivers will be able to use Apple Maps as in-car navigation, as well as listen to music and watch films. Calls can be made through the system, which will tie into the Siri voice recognition platform so that messages can be read to the driver who can respond by dictating a reply.

An Apple powered car has been expected since the launch of its updated iOS 7 software. Cars can already play music through Apple devices but this allows the iOS software on the screen to be built into the car.

Apple showed the first images of the "iOS in the Car" platform at a developer conference last year, which in effect mirrors the iPhone on the in-car display.