Apple of their eye
THE “frenemies” relationship between tech duo Apple and Google and the car companies is showing no signs of becoming more amicable in 2016.
It’s an uneasy alliance at best as the software behemoths leverage their dominance in smartphone connectivity while expanding into their automotive clients’ domain by developing autonomous cars.
As autonomous vehicles make the transition from test beds to viable transport how a car drives (at least in the short term) is less important than how it stays on the road.
The potential for conflict came to the fore again at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show when Volkswagen was reportedly forced to cancel a planned demonstration of wireless CarPlay connectivity after Apple vetoed the move. Apple’s iOS9 smartphone software is the first to pair with cars without needing a USB cable … and Apple is intent on managing which car maker publicly shows it off first.
The carmakers are caught between a financial rock and a consumer-based hard place. Setting your car up to pair to a smartphone is a smart strategy to keep customers happy; seeing the in-car data being used to help develop algorithms for self-driving cars is something altogether different. And that’s before you consider the potential revenue streams from targeted ads in response to a customer’s history or requests for nearby shops.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the VW Group have already taken the first step in weaning themselves from smartphonebased satnav by buying the HERE mapping service from Nokia.
They’re still being coy on just how HERE will help motorists get from here to there but have invited other manufacturers to join the consortium. The cloudbased service uses dedicated maps created by specialised vehicles fitted with cameras, radar and laser mapping,
Despite the hype over “connectivity convergence”, it’s worth remembering the carmakers are still the pioneers in self-driving technology: a Reuters investigation of patents on autonomous cars ranks Google 26th. Toyota leads the charge with 1400 patents but unlike the tech companies that tout every advance to keep in the public eye, car makers traditionally keep their innovations under wraps until they are ready to be rolled out commercially.
Who’s going to win this software-based battle? At this stage it’s too close to call but the smart money has Google and Apple teaming with a car company to provide the platform while they contribute to the tech.
As the adage goes, keep your friends close and your frenemies closer.