As the new age of Google-Apple manufactured smart cars begins, big auto manufacturers smell rat

The battle for the next platform has started and it’s being carried on inside the car. How the auto industry viewed Apple and Google two years is still unclear when CarPlay and Android Auto integrations were announced. However, the auto industry today is thoroughly convinced that Apple and Google will soon be competitors in the auto industry, either through on-demand auto services, traditional business models, or some combination of the two. Apple and Google are now considered “enemies” by the established automotive industry.

Raymond James, a financial services company has cited this claim in a new research note after being present at an automotive conference discussing opportunities and challenges confronting the industry.

“This is the first auto conference we have been to,” analyst Tavis McCourt writes, “where participants in the auto industry finally have come to the conclusion that Google and Apple are not their friends, but ultimately will likely be competitive enemies.”

To a greater or lesser extent both the companies are exploring automotive technology. Android Auto, an in-car infotainment system is being developed by Google as well as they are researching experimental self-driving car technology. Its self-driving “pods” will be on the roads for the first time in California this summer.

Meanwhile, Apple is developing CarPlay, its own in-vehicle infotainment system. There is also rumors making the rounds that Apple is building its own electric (and potentially self-driving) vehicle, which has hundreds of engineers working on it. However, the commercial production of the same is still years away.

The mission of both the platforms are the same which is to combine the smartphone with the vehicle’s dashboard. CarPlay works with the iPhone, while Android Auto connects to Android smartphones, which work about the same way. Once the smartphone is plugged into the car’s USB port, the phone’s navigation and maps, music and selected apps are coordinated onto the central screen. Both have same features with a few notable differences—CarPlay users can only use Apple maps.

These platforms can also help drivers keep their eyes on the road if not at least out of their laps. According to the latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given daylight moment some 660,000 drivers across America, are manipulating electronic devices or using cell phones while driving.

The CarPlay and Android Auto in a short span has evoked the anger of automotive manufacturers. Though they will apparently better the user experience for the driver, their introduction would make it far difficult to ascertain how their vehicles are different from their competitors. This is creating a unwillingness to work with the tech companies to combine the tech.

CarPlay and Android Auto basically on every OEM’s system look almost the same, which makes it extremely difficult for OEMs to ascertain around the user experience. At the end of the day, every OEM on earth looks at the user experience as its major point of differentiation. With reference to past events, user experience has always moved around the driving experience, but it includes more on how the driver reciprocates with information given to him/her on the digital instrument cluster, infotainment console, and in the end, the heads-up display.

Just about everyone at the conference were loud and clear that OEMs would continue to keep control of the infotainment system itself. Further, there are few, if any, long-term plans for auto OEMs to hand over the infotainment system to Apple or Android in a straightforward manner.

Whether the auto OEMs and their suppliers can actually create infotainment systems that are useful and have better user satisfaction levels than they have today along with the need prove out that there is a reason to have these systems other than smartphone integration will be the question that needs to be answered. Well, it will at least take three to five years to know the answer in this regard. However, one thing can be said that the systems themselves will improve meaningfully as they become connected to the internet.

It looks like an uphill task is awaiting both Apple and Google when they roll out their tech, if the opinions of those that Raymond James spoke to serves as a sign of the industry as a whole. However, there is one more news about Apple’s rumored automotive ambitions that Apple is in the process of building its own digital map, and will ultimately build its own cars.

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