Apple’s next-gen CarPlay teaser has me scared of Android Automotive – Android Police | Hot Mobile Press

Apple kicked off WWDC today with a look at iOS 16, an update that promises to bring a whole lot of Android’s customizability to iPhones. Almost all of the features announced in today’s keynote — from that snazzy new lock screen to this sweet drag-and-drop feature we’re asking Google to copy — will be available this fall. Still, one thing was teased today that will be decided Not In the coming months — or even this year — comes the next-gen version of CarPlay, a tool that looks set to rival Android Automotive as tech companies duel over the fate of your next car.


Currently, Google offers two very different driving experiences for drivers, although you’re probably only familiar with one. Android Auto appears on your in-display dashboard when connected to your car, showing apps, navigation, music and more. In general, it’s the perfect roadside companion – but it’s limited in its ability to communicate with your car.

Android Automotive is a complete operating system built on top of Android – it even gets its own operating system upgrades. Automotive is for automakers like GM, Ford, and Polestar to power the entire vehicle. This includes your speedometer and other gauges, tire pressure and climate control, all in addition to the same basic navigation and media controls provided by Auto. Basically, Automotive aims to replace the junk software that typically runs on vehicles and offer a manufacturer-specific experience with all the Google bells and whistles built right in.

Automotive is nothing new – it’s been around in some form for over five years. And yet, talking about it routinely requires an explanation similar to the one above, since Google has yet to take itself seriously with its onboard operating system. No matter how many partners it announces, no matter how many vehicles it rumors are supporting the project, Google continues to let Automotive languish as a side project built primarily for automakers and never really making it into the hands of mainstream consumers.

In theory, Google has many partners supporting the auto industry, including GM, Ford (possibly), and Honda. Those are some big players, and with vehicles like the 2022 GMC Sierra and its sibling truck, Chevy’s 2022 Silverado, we’re finally seeing the OS actually hit the streets with cars that regular consumers buy – no offense, polestar. That should prove Google has a massive lead in this space, but I can’t help but feel like Apple is lining up to eat Automotive’s lunch here.

That next-gen CarPlay release is still a long way off — Apple’s website says vehicle announcements will come in late 2023, suggesting they won’t be available to consumers until 2024 model year vehicles arrive. Still, today’s teaser was equal parts promising and intriguing. Apple showed off an interface that worked similarly to Android Automotive, communicating directly with your car’s instruments to gather information about your vehicle’s current status. Speedometer, odometer, how much gas is in your tank – it’s all here.\

Four custom looks for Apple’s next-gen CarPlay.

But unlike the manufacturer platform that Google built with Automotive, Apple primarily focuses on the driver. Look back at Apple’s announcement today and you’ll see that the language focuses solely on the driver.

“We’re also excited to give you the ability to make the core of the driving experience unique to you. We have carefully developed instrument cluster options ranging from modern to traditional, using different colors, dial treatments, backgrounds and layouts to create different looks and feels.”

In an unexpected twist, this version of CarPlay feels more like how we usually think of Android. It’s open to customization and personalization — it even has widgets scattered throughout the interface that sync with your apps and accounts. It’s a far cry from the boring and mechanical feel that many versions of Automotive evoke, and it actually presents itself with a sense of character and cohesion. In comparison, check out how Google’s icons for Maps and Assistant clash with the rest of GMC’s experience.

This is Android Automotive, but you’d never know it by looking at it.

In fact, a quick look at GMC and Chevy’s websites for their respective automotive-backed vehicles reveals some serious flaws in Google’s plan. Not only has the UI been customized like hell – the two companies even use slightly different icons despite their common parent company – in the case of GMC, the first photo showing Android Automotive doesn’t highlight Assistant or Maps, but CarPlay. In a window surrounded by gaudy icons laid out on Android is Apple’s bright and shiny car-friendly interface.

These icons are like a third-party package that you cannot change.

Unless Google makes some significant changes to how Android Automotive is developed and marketed — and make it more for the consumer than for automakers — I’m just not sure how the company will find a foothold in this market. Apple’s next-gen CarPlay appears to require an iPhone as the car and driver’s device communicate, giving Google some leverage here. Any driver, whether using iOS or Android, can interact with Automotive when it’s in their car. But compared to CarPlay, something that features heavily on the websites of all supported automakers around the world, none of today’s automotive customers seem bothered to say the word “Android.” Aside from a few vague references to the wizard, this software could be developed by anyone.

Google has a huge lead here – here too we are talking about vehicles that have been on the road for at least two years. But CarPlay is in a position where iPhone owners understand exactly what it is. It won’t be a difficult adjustment to extend the range to include all other aspects of your car. If Google wants to become the standard way people interact with their vehicles — and not just an OEM for automakers — it needs to rethink its strategy for the future of the auto industry. Otherwise, it’ll just be the splash screen that iPhone owners will see before CarPlay finally takes control.

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