At the recent Los Angeles International Auto Show, there was an associated event called the Connected Car Expo and Conference. It’s clear that the battle for who will live in your dashboard is getting serious. The main contenders on the software side are Apple (CarPlay) and Google (Android Auto) while on the hardware side–well, we have just about ever single auto manufacturer on the planet.
In my ideal world, I’d plug my iPhone into my car and see a familiar Apple-like display on my infotainment system which provides me touchscreen accessibility to all the apps that make sense while I’m behind the wheel. If you’re an Android user, you’d want the same thing to happen with your smartphone, right? Your car as an extension of your personal technology. (Yes, there’s also Windows Phone and Blackberry, but neither seems to be gaining any traction in the automotive space. On the other hand, Blackberry owns QNX, a middleman sort of software that helps translate smartphone OSes into the dashboard.)
This makes total sense for us users. While it takes five to seven years for new factory hardware to appear in cars, we get an iPhone/iOS ever year. With Android, we get updated hardware and software approximately every fifteen minutes. Why should car buyers have to live with technology that’s outdated as soon as the car appears in the showroom?
But the automakers don’t see it this way. They want buyers of their vehicles to be immersed in the brand and to identify every experience they have with the manufacturer. They’re also looking forward to the time when they offer special brand-specific telemetry and features, such as the fabled self-driving capability. Manufacturers are loathe to cede too much software power to an outside party. No one wants a car they build to somehow become even peripherally associated with Apple or Google. And besides, they say, is Siri reliable enough to avoid any privacy and/or liability issues?
At this point, manufacturers are willing to make various deals involving CarPlay and Google Auto. But it remains to be seen how well everyone will make nice.