Apple’s CarPlay Update ‘Threatens Automaker Data Control’

Apple is aiming to take a bite out of the automotive vehicle operating system market posing commercial risks to carmakers.

Its launch of the updated CarPlay, revealed at the company’s annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) last week, now presents global automakers with a crucial choice about the digital experiences they offer their customers, according to connectivity specialist VNC Automotive.

CarPlay will now take the automakers head-on in terms of data collection by no longer being confined to the vehicle’s infotainment display but move across the vehicle’s other screens, including the instrument cluster. At the same time, next generation CarPlay seeks to tighten its grip on the vehicle’s existing systems. Instead of being limited to smartphone-related functions, such as music and navigation, the new system will gain access to all vehicle data, from speed to fuel level, while also taking over control of features such as cabin climate settings.

Tom Blackie, CEO, VNC Automotive, warned: “While, on the face of it, Apple’s advances seem like a good thing giving customers a familiar interface to interact with, it also cuts vehicle manufacturers out of the in-car experience and limits opportunities to create brand loyalty. Initially, the rise of the touchscreen was all about saving hardware costs by implementing everything in software. Now, some cars feature a swath of screens right across the dashboard, offering a digital landscape almost as wide as the car itself. Recently, though, there’s been growing disquiet as drivers push-back against the level of attention these interfaces demand.”

He pointed to a recent study by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory that found drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 20 seconds when asked to play a track from Spotify, long enough to travel a third of a mile at motorway speeds. The European Commission, meanwhile, estimates that driver distraction is a factor in up to 30% of all accidents in Europe, signaling the potential for legislators to step in with new regulations.

At the same time, many carmakers are set on a path that will see them become software houses first and car manufacturers second, with the likes of Volvo and Volkswagen both hiring huge numbers of developers as they look to software rather than hardware to create differentiation in a marketplace that is increasingly electrified.

Blackie added: “That work is now at risk of being undermined. By ceding control of everything from the speedo to the seat controls, OEMs are giving Silicon Valley unprecedented access to their customers’ lives, and relinquishing their own opportunities while they’re at it.”

He suggested consumers are also at risk that a car’s features may become inaccessible to its owner if he or she switch to an alternative ecosystem or refuse to upgrade to the latest handset. Some may even disappear altogether should Apple decide to withdraw support in an overnight iOS update. Blackie concluded: “The car makers we work with go to great lengths to ensure features work just as well after ten years as they did the day the vehicle left the showroom. With customers now keeping their cars for longer than ever, there’s a real risk of digital decomposition. Only now, car manufacturers won’t be able to stop it.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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