Apple Inc.'s AAPL -0.21% drop; red down-pointing triangle CarPlay, the app that lets drivers to use their iPhones through the car's display, has become a standard feature in millions of vehicles and trucks produced each year, and a must-have feature for certain customers.
GM Co. (GM -0.12% decrease; red down-pointing triangle) is getting rid of the popular app on many of its new electric vehicles, as is Alphabet Inc.'s GOOG 1.17%increase; green up-pointing triangle Google for Android phones.
GM stunned many in the car industry earlier this month when it announced that it was discontinuing the applications in favor of new software for the multimedia display. According to executives, its software has more built-in capabilities than what drivers can already receive via smartphone connections.
GM's approach, which is similar to Tesla Inc. TSLA -0.48% drop; red down-pointing triangle and other EV producers, is the latest twist in a war between automobile and internet firms over a vehicle's digital real estate and services—a battle worth billions of dollars in future income.
The move, however, is a risk, since it risks alienating CarPlay fans who rely only on the app for navigation, music and podcast listening, and other functions, according to dealers and industry analysts. Because GM is employing Google's underlying technology for its new interface, Android users will continue to see Google Maps and other familiar functions, even if Android Auto will not be available.
For years, automakers have attempted to emulate the appearance and feel of consumer electronics in the automobile, only to stumble with difficult-to-use technology that has irritated drivers. Owners have instead gravitated to the more streamlined solutions of the digital behemoths, leaving auto executives concerned that they have lost a vital touch point with their consumers.
Paul Jacobson, GM finance head, stated that the new GM-specific software will provide a more customized experience for its drivers. The touch-screen interface will be branded with GM's logo and features.
For example, GM claims that the software will be able to collect data on the vehicle's electric charge and tire pressure and offer recommendations, such as the optimum area to stop and plug in. It might also offer a recommended path to Google Maps for those who wish to utilize the hands-free Super Cruise-assisted driving feature, which is only available on certain roads.
According to General Motors, these features will not be available via CarPlay or Android Auto.
"It is up to us to build it and eventually persuade people that it can be better all around," Mr. Jacobson said.
According to a Google spokesperson, GM is extending its in-car technology using Google's operating system, and the decision not to utilize Android Auto on future EVs was made by the automaker based on its brand goals. An Apple representative declined to comment.
Some competitor automakers' executives have stated that they have no intentions to remove CarPlay and Android Auto from their vehicles. Yet, they believe that the rivalry between tech and auto businesses for automobile owners' attention is becoming more severe.
"We want people to be part of our ecosystem," said Mike Colleran, president of Nissan Motor Co.'s marketing and sales in the United States. "There is where the battle will be."
CarPlay and Android Auto are projection or mirroring systems because they display the familiar look of the smartphone screen onto the touch screen of the automobile. According to research company Wards Intelligence, CarPlay and Android Auto will be installed on more than 90% of new automobiles built for the US market in 2022.
Several automobile executives and engineers were hesitant to give up dashboard space, but they wanted to alleviate consumer annoyance with automakers' own multimedia panels, which many considered glitchy and difficult to operate. The applications were also thought to be safer for drivers since they could manage their phones from the car's display, allowing them to spend less time looking away from the road.
Car manufacturers are already racing to produce electric vehicles that, like smartphones, are increasingly outfitted with software that can be upgraded remotely. Auto executives see an opportunity to provide a growing menu of digital features and services that will produce cash long after the vehicle has been sold, and at considerably better profit margins than a car, manufacturers are used to.
According to GM, the ability to beam new features to the car—for example, adding hands-free lane-change functionality as part of the assisted-driving system Super Cruise—could produce $20 billion to $25 billion in revenue annually by 2030, up from $2 billion in 2021.
Even so, vehicle manufacturers may have a more difficult time selling those features if customers are always linked to CarPlay or Android Auto, according to Anna Buettner, a lead analyst at research company S&P Global Mobility.
"It all comes down to owning the client experience and the data," she explained.
Mercedes-Benz Group AG has said that the company's built-in software products for its in-car screens will be highlighted. "We want to manage the interface with our clients rather than outsourcing it," a Mercedes spokesperson stated.
Tesla, which was years ahead of typical vehicle companies in offering new and enhanced features via downloaded software upgrades, is one of the automakers that does not provide Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Rivian Automotive Inc., an Electric truck manufacturer, has likewise avoided them.
GM plans to debut its new display-screen software on the Chevy Blazer electric SUV, which will go on sale this summer. The automaker will continue to provide CarPlay and Android Auto on its gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, as well as a few electric vehicles.
According to a corporate presentation last year, Apple is anticipated to unveil a next-generation version of CarPlay this year, which will expand to additional dashboard panels and manage some car features, like seat warmers.
According to sources familiar with the company's strategy, the intention to reach further into the vehicle's controls played a role in GM's decision to drop CarPlay on future models.
Phil Abram, a former General Motors official in charge of implementing CarPlay and Android Auto on the company's vehicles over a decade ago, believes GM can push its features without removing Apple CarPlay.
"I don't view it as either/or in general intentionally lowering the capability of your product is not a winning strategy," he remarked.
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