Will Android Auto and Apple CarPlay end decades of clunky in-car entertainment systems?

28 October 2015

Elliot Cooper

Elliot Cooper


The word ‘infotainment’ makes me shudder, however I was pleased to read about this nebulous term when I discovered that Android would be creating “Android Auto”. The new piece of software is an in-car infotainment system that works by connecting your phone to the vehicle, already included on some 2015 model year vehicles.

It works by simply plugging your phone into the car’s USB port, then using the central touchscreen to choose Android Auto. After that, the car’s display becomes the information hub for the vehicle, working with a user interface much the same as an android phone or tablet.

Google isn’t the only software giant to produce such an offering. Apple announced CarPlay in March 2014, which turns works in a similar fashion to “Android Auto”, transforming a car’s central screen into an iOS device. The android counterpart was in fact announced later on, in June 2014.

My first reaction when I read about these two rival gadgets was that it might influence customers’ phone purchasing choices, depending on whether the car they own has AndroidAuto, or CarPlay (or even the other way around!). However, I quickly learned that both are offered to the customer for the majority of automotive brands. A sensible choice, so as not to alienate half of your customer-base in one fell swoop. Needless to say, this will be an optional extra on new models, costing around $4,000, whilst aftermarket kits can be bought and installed on existing cars from as little as $400.

The current market and existing competition

 “IHS predicts Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be in 1.5 million cars by the end of 2015. By 2020, that number will jump to 68 million. Right now, the infotainment space is worth more than $31 billion.”

That means these two technologies will go from being installed in just under 2% of all cars sold in 2015, to around 64% over the course of 5 years. This statistic alone gives insight into why the big players in technology want to get in on the action.

Previous to these modernisms, the standard of the out of the box in-car systems have been famously ridiculed and stereotyped for their unintuitive user interfaces, poor quality voice recognition, and needless complexity, so no need to do that here in this blog. Apologies for that tautology.

It’ll be interesting to see if this cannibalises sales from other existing in car technology, such as OnStar. Whilst they have been successful in partnering with GM, they now have to compete directly with the new kids on the block, as GM will be offering both “Android Auto” and “CarPlay” too. In addition to this, much of the functionality OnStar and its existing competitors overlaps with that of Android and Apple’s new products, aside from the portable Wi-Fi hotspot and on demand call centre.

It’s hard to see how these two types of technology (OnStar and “Android Auto”, for example) will marry in the same vehicle, if at all. A more likely outcome is that customers will choose one or the other. No prizes for guessing which one I think will be more successful over the next 3 years.

Questions to consider when integrating with enterprise applications

  • That’s all well and good having great new software in cars for everyone to enjoy, but how will this affect those OEMs that are now linked in a way like never seen before to their owners’ information?
  • Could it improve the way vehicle performance/maintenance stats are passed back to the production line for an unprecedented level of kaizen that even Mr Kiichiro Toyoda would be impressed by?
  • Could it help reform the unfathomably low 49% customer retention that the industry boasts, by informing centralised enterprise applications such as CRM about consumer behaviours?
  • Does this raise new data protection issues among consumer group?
  • Could we write an entire blog post without using the phrase “Big data”?

All great questions, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Clive Davis answers one or two of them in How can automotive better communicate with customers?

You can also find some commentary in my post Data security and the rise of Big Data. Who should we trust?

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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