Have CarPlay and Android Auto outstayed their welcome on car screens?

  • Internet
  • Saturday, 08 Apr 2023

Many drivers turn to Apple's Carplay and Google's Android Auto to use their apps on the road. For carmakers, this means losing an key interface to the customer. That's why GM wants to lock such services out from future electric cars. Might other manufacturers follow suit? — Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa

NEW YORK: In the long-running battle between carmakers and smartphone platforms to dominate displays in cars, General Motors is planning to take a radical step: Future electric models will no longer support Apple's CarPlay or Google's Android Auto.

Instead, the US corporation with its brands like Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick wants to rely on an in-house software platform said to bring its own navigation advantages by relying on vehicle data like battery level and temperature.

The move is primarily about making the operation of electric cars more efficient, GM explained in an announcement at the start of April. "The vehicle can know more than the phone does," a spokeswoman told technology blog The Verge.

CarPlay and Android Auto have been used by many to get nearly the same level of features from their phone onto their car's display. For this to work, the phone is connected wirelessly or by cable and takes over the screen of the infotainment system.

The two brought a welcome level of sophistication to car screens, as for a long time the in-house operating systems designed by manufacturers were cumbersome and lagging far behind smartphones.

Once first integrated about a decade ago, Android Auto and CarPlay offered a near-seamless continuation of the smartphone experience in the car. Emails, music playlists, messages and maps could then all be seen on the car's screen.

The software typically runs on the smartphones, not in the on-board computer, meaning your car's smarts and software speed is typically as good as your phone's.

Some industry experts have argued for years that it would be difficult for car companies to ever win the battle for the "human interface" in the long run because people generally want the same features and user experience as from their smartphone.

This has become a problem for car manufacturers, however, as they want to generate an ever larger part of their business with revenues from digital services.

But things have changed again with the advent of electric cars, and manufacturers have been given something of a trump card: for navigation, the range must be calculated correctly – and this can vary significantly depending on ambient temperature, tyre pressure and other factors.

In order to calculate a route including possibly necessary charging stops, the car therefore needs access to the battery level and other data from inside the vehicle.

It's telling that, so far, manufacturers have largely made no effort to make this essential vehicle data available to Google and Apple, as doing so would harm their potential to deliver superior in-car software.

In any case, Google is set to keep one foot in the car door with its Android operating system, and more and more carmakers are turning to a neutral version of Android as the basis for their own infotainment systems.

Manufacturers – like GM most recently – can also directly integrate Google services like Maps, Google Play and the voice assistant, without having to forfeit all control to a Google operating system.

Last year, Apple flexed even more ambition to dominate car screens with a new CarPlay version that can also take over the instrument cluster and even display the car's current speed. However, it is unclear whether manufacturers will use it.

At GM, the first model to focus on its own software will be the all-electric Chevrolet Blazer, which is to be launched in the US and Canada in the summer. With the new system, smartphones can be integrated via Bluetooth only for calls, dictating short messages and playing music.

One exception to all this is the electric car manufacturer Tesla, which has always relied only on its own software services.

At the same time, carmakers are expanding their software offerings. Volkswagen, for example, recently introduced an app store for all group brands.

Given the popularity of CarPlay and Android Auto, the major manufacturers have so far been reluctant to ban smartphone services. But GM's move shows that the switch to electric mobility leaves room for major manufacturers to retake the ceded territory of the car screen. – dpa

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