Nowadays, one of the hottest topics in the automotive industry is software, and infotainment systems in particular, as the electronic component, including various kinds of software, represents around 40% of the production cost of any modern vehicle and it keeps rising.
Basically, infotainment is the most exposed kind of automotive software that most drivers interact with, on a daily basis, whether listening to the radio, using GPS navigation or streaming music from the smartphone. Thus, it has been attracting a lot of attention recently, from both car and OEM manufacturers, as well as from established software companies.
Battle for Dashboard Dominance
For a number of years we’ve been witnessing the epic battle between carmakers and software giants to dominate your in-car experience – well, it seems it’s finally unwinding. In short, the warring fractions are defined as following:
On one hand, we have traditional automakers, let’s say Ford, just as an example. For them, the driver’s infotainment experience is part of their brand identity, an essential part of the vehicle that they produce and sell. Therefore, keeping a hold on the infotainment is essential, as it’s becoming an increasingly important factor for any potential customer thinking about buying a new car.
On the opposite side, we have two software giants – Google and Apple – that completely control the mobile industry at the moment and really want to extend their empires into your vehicle, at any cost. In their perspective, the driver’s in-car experience is a natural continuation of the smartphone, thus it rightfully belongs to them.
The current course of events has been going in slow motion since 2014, when the first CarPlay version hit the market, quite in line with the Apple’s philosophy and pricing policy – it debuted with Ferrari FF, after being announced at the Geneva Motor Show. Less than a year later, Google followed suit, presenting Android Auto in action on Hyundai Sonata.
Both solutions were struggling to gain traction in the beginning, as carmakers were rather reluctant towards the idea of allowing those 800-pound gorillas in their carefully guarded garden of the driver’s in-car experience. Now, however, things look different – just check out the list of the supported vehicles for CarPlay and Android Auto!
Who’s Winning in Car Tech
At the moment, it seems that CarPlay beats Android Auto, in terms of the market adaption. It’s also worth to notice that Google resorted to “cheating”, by adding infotainment hardware manufacturers, such as Kenwood, to the list of car models. That list is growing quite rapidly, nevertheless, and it’s safe to assume that almost all cars produced in the upcoming few years will feature both CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the other hand, carmakers didn’t give up easily and kept coming up with numerous open source solutions, having started with MirrorLink and currently promoting SmartDeviceLink, in addition to a legion of brand specific infotainment platforms, such as Mercedes COMAND, Audi MMI and so on.
Summing up, the recent trend in developed markets is clearly in favor of the Silicon Valley-born solutions, as customers want to have the same user interface inside their cars and carmakers are petty much forced by the market to let CarPlay and Android Auto in.
Not that they like it though, those “strangers” are still denied access to the car specific data, such as fuel consumption that is readily available in their native infotainment solutions (we shall see whether this last defense line is also to fall in the near future).
With that said, there’s still a large niche for custom infotainment systems, especially for the aftermarket upgrades, for vehicles not initially equipped with infotainment and Exaud will definitely keep providing solutions for this market.
If you’re curious about this topic and the work we’ve been doing in this area, feel free to reach me at georg[at]exaud[dot]com