5 Reasons OEMs Should Adopt Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Last week I gave 5 reasons why Automotive OEMs should not adopt Android Auto or Apply CarPlay. However, there is another side to this story that is driven by consumer demand and the relentless progress of mobile software and hardware. While it might not be entirely in the best interests of OEMs to partner with Apple and Google, the market is clearly asking for this to happen. Here are 5 reasons why it might be actually be a good idea.
1. Google and Apple Know How to Deliver a Great Software User Experience
Apple has been delivering world-class mobile user experiences since the introduction of iOS in 2007, and Google has similarly been developing and refining its mobile offering with Android for the same amount of time. Both platforms are actively developed by dozens, if not hundreds of software engineers and designers on a continuous basis. Over the last 8 years both companies have learned a great deal about how to deliver compelling user experiences on interactive devices, and it is hard to see how OEMs can compete in this area with limited budgets and experience. OEMs might be able to hire their way into great software user experience, but it would be a long and costly process.
2. OEMs Are Good at Hardware, But Not Good at Software
Until very recently, OEMs did nothing but develop vehicle hardware and the integrated systems needed to properly control and maintain vehicles (which they did and still do very well). The concept of an interactive head unit running complex software is relatively new and is an avenue of development that OEMs simply are not setup to handle well. The converse is also true, of course – if Google announced tomorrow that it was going to build a car from scratch we would all ridicule them for reaching so far outside their area of expertise. Given the existing strength of OEMs in the hardware space, it makes sense for automotive manufacturers to focus on developing the best possible cars and leave the head unit software to better suited partners.
3. Traditional Vehicle Software Lifecycles Don’t Match Consumer Expectations
It currently takes 3 years or more to bring a new head unit and in-car software to market, and new car buyers hold on to cars for 5-7 years, with the average car on the road being over 11 years old. Compare this to the mobile space where new phones and operating system versions are released every year and most consumers are upgrading their devices every 2 years. OEMs stuck in the traditional vehicle development lifecycle simply can’t innovate and bring to market new software as fast as tech companies. The result is that consumers will inevitably be disappointed by the disparity between their mobile devices and what is available in the car. Rather than fight this trend, OEMs should aim to provide robust head unit hardware and vehicle sensor/control system integration on top of which Apple and Google can build an excellent and up-to-date user experience for customers.
4. Consumers Are Already Demanding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Consumers are undeniably in love with their smartphones and expect the same mobile experiences to carry over into the car. We’ve also seen that drivers dislike just about every proprietary head unit software experience presented so far, with the possible exception of Tesla’s (which still lacks voice integration and more than basic apps). However, the promise presented by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has been met with almost universal acclaim and demand by consumers who want their in-car experience to be of the same quality as their mobile experience today. While it is certainly possible for OEMs to ignore this trend and develop more proprietary solutions, doing so will only disappoint customers and encourage them to buy from OEMs who support the technology they want.
5. It’s All About the Apps
The strength of iOS and Android is not based on the ability to make phone calls more easily, but rather on the ability to extend the function of the phone with a limitless variety of apps. In the mobile space this has translated to a multi-billion dollar app development industry with developers pumping out a huge variety of high quality and high value apps every day. But if we look at the head unit, app development is woefully lacking in comparison. OEMs often have to partner with individual development shops and pay hefty sums to get an app like Pandora to market with only a subset of the features available on a mobile device. And the ability of developers to create new apps that leverage in-vehicle technologies is extremely limited. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay present an opportunity to change this situation drastically and bring to the car the same vibrant ecosystem that consumers have come to love in the mobile space.