Android Auto and Apple CarPlay For its EVs

    General Motors introduced the Cadillac User Experience in 2011, amid a series of reboots for the Cadillac brand. CUE was a touchscreen infotainment system that integrated smartphones and a capacitive touch panel for the dashboard that provided haptic feedback instead of physical buttons.

    It was a complete disaster. Reviewers at the time criticized CUE’s inability to respond, strange menu layouts, and lag. Driver compared CUE to a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, when I was editor in chief of Jalopnik, we called it “most hated infotainment platform ever.” Although it was upgraded many times over the years, it was still a problem. Cadillac’s CUE is still a problem. The branding has been dropped.

    Fast forward to 10 years and GM believes it can produce better software than Apple or Google.

    GM believes it can create software that is better than Apple or Google

    This is the message behind an announcement by GM that GM’s upcoming electric vehicles won’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto . Users won’t have the ability to project their smartphones onto their cars’ infotainment screens in order to experience a native-like experience.

    To be fair, GM, just like all other automakers, has made great strides in electric and connected car development. An auto industry that was far behind the tech industry in terms of software quality has resulted in a dependency on Apple and Google for its horrible interface issues. It’s taken a toll upon people’s trust in traditional car companies to deliver a quality software experience that doesn’t, for the lack of a better word, stink.

    GM’s decision sparked a backlash from consumers who weren’t ready for Android Auto or CarPlay to go away. It shouldn’t be surprising considering the poor track record of the auto industry with software and the popularity of Android and Apple systems. (In fact Reuters pointed this out when it broke the story, GM boasted once of having more CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible vehicles than any other automaker.

    New car owners continue to complain about smartphone integration problems, difficult-to-use infotainment systems and buggy operating system. Android Auto and CarPlay are so popular because they’re easy to use and work exactly like the phones they’re used to. Apple’s own research shows that nearly 80 percent would consider a car with CarPlay.

    Existing Cadillac, Chevy and GMC Buick owners (including EV drivers), won’t lose access to CarPlay or Android Auto. However, GM won’t include these systems in its plans, even though GM has new software powered by Google. Industry experts said this week that this is clearly contrary to what buyers want.

    Robby DeGraff from AutoPacific, an analyst in automotive research and marketing, stated that “based on all of the research over the last few years, there’s definitely huge demand and interest for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.”

    DeGraff stated that the only thing topping demand for these smartphone systems in a recent trend analysis from his company was more USB-C outlets for cars.

    DeGraff said that “people really want this in the next vehicle they buy, regardless of price, segment, or propulsion.” “Furthermore it’s puzzling that GM is taking this action for its EV products as our data shows that consumers who intend on buying an EV or PHEV in future want wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto even more than those who are intending to buy ICE [vehicles].

    There are many reasons why this is happening. They all represent the problems that car companies will face as they try to become tech companies in the EV era.

    Why GM fought with Apple

    Look at the new Ultifi platform to see where GM is coming from. Although it may not be as glamorous as 0-60 mph times or tire-roasting horsepower, this is crucial for the GM EV overhaul.

    Ultifi acts as your smartphone’s OS, but in a car. Although it will be used in GM’s next-generation EV lineup, it is more important for the latter. Ultifi, which is basically software-driven batteries on wheels for EVs, will enable over-the-air updates and more advanced automated driving assist, connected car capabilities and native versions popular apps such as Spotify and Google Maps. It will also allow for less appealing features like data collection or subscription-only features. This will be discussed further.

    There are many reasons why this is happening. They all represent the problems that car companies will face as they try to become tech companies in the EV era.

    Similar efforts are being made by many car companies. Take for example Volkswagen, who has faced many challenges on the software front. However, it is moving forward with a unified system software architecture that will include native app stores. If cars will be defined by software and user experience within a few years it is understandable that GM, VW and other companies don’t want third-party tech companies to have that experience.

    Some of the decisions made by GM seem to be related to maps and plans for automated driver. Edmunds suggested that a native navigational system might work better with Super Cruise, or its more advanced lidar powered upcoming sibling Ultra Cruise. Mike Hichme, GM’s executive director for digital cockpit experience, stated Reuters it does not want to create features that would exclude people who don’t have a smartphone.

    The average new EV is about $65,000. Who would buy such a high-tech, expensive vehicle if they didn’t have a smartphone? If they are still around, I would love to speak to them. Send me an email if you’re that person. You can also send New York office an fax in your case. (I’ll be there to pick it up if I have the time.

    This is ultimately about control. This next generation of cars won’t be driven by drivers, and I doubt many do not. It will be all about subscriptions and consumer data. Auto industry sees subscriptions and data as hugely profitable revenue streams . GM hopes to increase its subscription revenue by more than tenfold, to $25 billion annually by 2030. What automaker would want to compete with Apple or force it to use its software? These features are free for car companies, and neither Apple nor Google charge them. Owners don’t even have to pay a monthly fee.

    Ivan Drury is Edmunds’ director for insights. He stated that “from a business perspective having more control over the vehicles you own is extremely beneficial for vehicle development and the opportunities presented by capturing, repackaging and analysis data for analysis and marketing,” The Verge.

    “Having more control over what happens in your cars is very valuable from a business perspective”

    He said that GM was waging war with “arguably one of the most culturally relevant consumer brands in history,” and that he believes GM has lost the battle to “the most influential consumer brand in history, the one most people would attribute with creating the touchscreen obsession automakers are now pursuing.”

    Ironically, GM does the same thing Apple and other tech companies do. Your iOS experience doesn’t have to be highly controlled and tightly controlled. It is only available to select apps after Apple has taken its generous cut. Even Apple’s next-generation CarPlay system is a big ask. It will soon take over all of the user experience, including digital dashboards. This is a huge deal for any car company that invests in software.

    However, customer preferences are as they are today. Years of frustrations with systems like CUE (and then CarPlay), have added up.

    DeGraff stated, “Talk to anyone who’s ever been in a car with this feature and they will often be sold on the need to have it.” It is a topic that I hear a lot about. To prove how popular Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are, older vehicle owners are upgrading their factory (DIN), head units with aftermarket touchscreens that offer Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

    “GM is waging war with one of the most influential and culturally relevant consumer brands in history.”

    This trend has been broken only by Tesla, who has never offered Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Tesla is a rare animal in the auto industry. It has long been seen as a tech company that makes automobiles — the same pivot legacy automakers want to make. And Elon Musk, its CEO, is well-known for his rivalry with other companies. Even though it is far from perfect, Tesla’s car-software experience has been largely better than those of many other old-school car manufacturers. GM might be trying to replicate this approach at some point, but it’s difficult to duplicate the way Tesla has always marched to its own beat.

    These features are not new to Tesla enthusiasts, who have been asking for them for years. Some intrepid developers even created hacks and parts to make CarPlay possible on these vehicles. This alone speaks volumes.

    Your screen is at war

    However, GM’s decision not to continue with Android Auto and CarPlay could signal a wider trend. It’s possible that automakers will continue to turn to Google for help in building infotainment systems. However, it is also plausible that more people will abandon third-party smartphone projections systems. The revenue streams from your car, your screen and the data that they collect are all set to explode. Everyone wants to share and play.

    This seems premature at the moment. In 2023, the car market is dominated in large part by demand for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This is probably why other car manufacturers like Ford and Volvo, BMW, and Hyundai insist on these features. Although they may not want to admit it, the possibility of buyers moving to other dealers is high.

    Drury stated that he believes it is unlikely that GM will reconsider its decision on this matter, despite backlash. However, he cautioned that any company had to be world-class, and not another CUE.

    Drury used a nickname for GM to say that GM “while unlikely to completely reverse its course”, but it is possible to expect the replacement app to be up-to-snuff.

    “There is no substitute for the iPhone’s seamless connectivity with the rest of the world, which many Apple customers love.” GM should hope that consumers feel the same way about GM vehicles.

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