Technology

The next big battle between Google and Apple is for the soul of your car

As cars are becoming more of smartphones on wheels, people might have option for choosing operating system for them in future. 
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Now that cars, especially electric ones, are becoming something like smartphones on wheels, some of the dynamism of the early days of the mobile industry is moving into the auto industry. Competition between the two kingpins of the smartphone industry has gained new momentum in the past few years, with Google forming auto-maker partnerships for automobile-based versions of its Android operating system, and Apple teasing plans to expand its software capabilities. the car

For the involved car companies, which face the nearly impossible challenge of creating software on par with what tech companies offer, working with Silicon Valley can address consumer desires and fend off competition from companies like Tesla. And yet there is an inherent tension in this partnership over who controls the user experience and the valuable data produced.

Taken together, these forces mean that each automaker must navigate a delicate balance between working in-house and signing partnerships that relinquish control, and potentially some revenue streams. These choices are leading to a vast and confusing new ecosystem where “mobile” devices mean cars, and not just phones. Until now, consumers didn’t need to worry about what software was running on their car, but increasingly, they might.

For the average driver, this can mean cars that operate with much more familiar, and functional, software. But it could also expand the limited choice that now exists in the duopoly of smartphone operating systems, with implications for later selling a car, or switching to a different smartphone ecosystem. Imagine car listings that say “60k miles, runs great, supports up to Apple CarOS v 3.1, sorry Android users, get an iPhone already!!”

Google’s head start

To understand what’s happening in the technology that controls our cars, Google’s aggressive moves are a good place to start.

Software increasingly controls most aspects of our cars, from driver-assist systems that maintain the car’s speed and the codes to navigate the highway to the computer that makes sure the car stops when we brake—or the car brakes us.

But competition from auto-operating systems has so far centered on infotainment systems that show us everything from road maps to movies.

Both Google and Apple have systems—called Android Auto and CarPlay—that mirror phone apps on car displays.

Google has gone even further. In 2017, it announced Android Automotive (yes, the name is the same), an operating system installed in cars that controls its built-in infotainment system instead of displaying a version of the phone’s screen. Android Automotive is something that turns many new car screens into more or less an Android-powered tablet that runs Android apps customized for the car. Automakers can also license Google’s own apps and services, such as Maps and Assistant, through an arrangement it calls Google Automotive Services, though that’s optional.

Android Automotive can do a lot more than Android Auto, collecting all kinds of data from other parts of the car like its speed, battery status, heating and air conditioning, and more that an auto maker wants to make available to Google’s software. .

Android Automotive often replaces the less-than-common customized software that automakers put into their car’s infotainment systems in the past. For example, Ford’s widely received Sync infotainment system began as a partnership with Microsoft, until Ford switched to BlackBerry’s QNX unit in 2014. Last year, Ford announced it would once again switch infotainment-software providers, this time starting with Google’s Android Automotive. Selling the car next year. In 2020, the first car powered by Android Automotive went on sale in the US – the Polestar 2, from Volvo’s electric-car unit.

To date, Google has announced partnerships with nearly a dozen auto manufacturers and auto-parts suppliers, including Stellar, Honda, BMW, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and General Motors’ GMC and Chevrolet brands. Other auto manufacturers have announced they are using Android Automotive, which is open source, without entering into a partnership with Google, including electric vehicle startups like Lucid Motors.

What auto manufacturers get with Android Automotive is a ready-made operating system for their cars with resources maintained by a company to constantly update that software, taking care of small but important details like staying current with new wireless standards. And what Google gets from this arrangement is that it makes it easier for the company to offer its services to a wide variety of vehicles, said Haris Ramik, who has led Google’s Android Automotive team since its inception in 2015.

This means more people use Google’s services, such as Maps or its Assistant Almost everyone who buys one of the millions of cars slated to run Android Automotive will buy an Android smartphone with wheels from the standpoint of its user interface and the apps it can run.

Apple is not static

The car software transition is still in its early days, and it’s hard to predict how it will play out. But one possible outcome is that many automakers will offer cars with infotainment systems made by Google or Apple that have been slightly modified by the automaker, said Kirsten Heinecke, a Germany-based partner at McKinsey who consults with automotive clients.

Apple hasn’t announced an equivalent for Android automotive—that is, software that automakers can license to run in their vehicles, whether or not an iPhone is connected to them. And as with all its future plans, the company is very careful about what it says publicly.

However, a demo of the next generation of its iPhone-mirroring CarPlay software at Apple’s developer conference in June, including renderings of future car interfaces, hinted at much deeper and even Android automotive-level integration with future cars. . Some analysts have dubbed Apple’s hypothetical future car software “CarOS.”

Apple has announced more than a dozen launch partners for the next generation of CarPlay, starting with models sold in 2023, including Volvo, Ford, Honda, Renault, Mercedes and Porsche.

For Apple to license its software to automakers would be almost unprecedented in the company’s history. Apple has long focused on controlling both hardware and software in its devices. On the other hand, failing to offer something like a CarOS to compete with Android Automotive could put Apple at Google’s mercy in millions of automobiles, since Google would control the operating system running Apple’s CarPlay phone-mirroring software. Currently, some Volvo and Polestar cars can run Apple’s CarPlay on Android Automotive, but this is far less integration than what works as part of the car’s current operating system.

At its June presentation, Apple showed off new CarPlay software taking over a car’s instrument cluster, which includes gauges like speed, RPM and state of charge.

Such displays of instrumentation and driving-critical systems typically have to be deeply integrated—physically, in terms of the hardware that controls them—into a vehicle to meet international safety standards for vehicles, says Isaac Treffz, a former software engineer at BMW. Product manager at OpenSynergy, which makes software that helps car computers do whatever they ask.

According to Chris Jones, automotive-market analyst at Canalys, it’s likely that Apple has found some sort of compromise with auto manufacturers where manufacturers build their systems so they can take on some of the work needed to make next-generation CarPlay work. In any event, the next CarPlay represents a much deeper integration with auto makers than Apple has in the past, he added.

While some auto manufacturers may balk at how strict Apple’s requirements are for making next-generation CarPlay available in their vehicles, the sheer weight of customer demand — there are nearly one billion iPhone users worldwide — has clearly forced some to work with Apple on Apple’s terms. Mr Jones said.

Everyone comes here

At the same time, many manufacturers are developing their own operating systems to control their cars. Volvo is an illustrative case. The company runs Android Automotive in its infotainment center and keeps it separate from VolvoCars.OS, software developed in-house to stitch all the car’s systems together, said David Holecek, director of digital experience at Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding. He adds that everything runs on the hardware inventory of traditional auto-parts makers and depends on the car make and model of new entrants like Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Some automakers, such as Lucid, have chosen to integrate Android Automotive with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. Stellantis, which owns 14 automotive brands including Jeep, Chrysler, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, uses Android Automotive in some of its vehicles and announced a partnership with Amazon in January to make the company’s services available in vehicles.

“The way we think about it is that we want to push our own software forward,” says Yves Bonfont, chief software officer at Stellantis. Still, Stellantis sees partnerships with companies like Amazon—and the use of customized versions of the Android Automotive operating system—as a way to save time and resources, and focus on creating unique software experiences in its vehicles tailored to customer types. Each attracts.

This hodgepodge of software and systems will remain the norm for some time, McKinsey’s Mr. Heinecke said. Cars have so many safety-critical systems and so many new features—like in-dash entertainment and more-sophisticated driver assistance—that one company can do it all, even if that company is Google, Apple, or Amazon. After all, no one knows what the future holds for these systems in a world where all three companies may be trying to displace the personal car as we know it through robotaxis — courtesy of Google-owned Waymo, Amazon-owned Zoox and whatever Apple is working on.

However, it’s coming, it won’t happen as fast as the previous mobile ecosystem wars between iOS, Android and Fire Phone—remember?

“The automotive industry is very conservative. Probably more like 20,” said Mr. Trefz, who has decades of experience designing hardware and software-based systems that control cars.

This story appeared from a wire agency feed without text changes.

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