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Big Tech Vs. Big Auto: Apple and Google are Betting Big on Smart Cars

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Big tech is vying for a larger share of the smart car market. Apple’s recent CarPlay update sheds further light on the company’s automotive ambitions. It will compete for software market share with Google’s Android Auto.

Apple’s new car dashboard will automatically adjust to different screen sizes and offers an interface similar to iPads. Moreover, users can add trip information, control the car’s climate, and check the wide range of vehicle data, including fuel mileage.

It is currently in talks to implement the new dashboard with prominent automakers like Honda, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz. Apple is set to announce specific vehicles with the software later next year.

Google has also signed a six-year collaboration with Ford to power infotainment systems in its vehicles. The tech giant has made similar deals with General Motors and Volvo. Ford will also use Cloud by Google as its preferred provider for connected vehicle services.

Sony is also partnering with Honda for “entertainment-focused” EVs by 2025 (PlayStation on wheels). The company believes that cars will soon transit to tech products as they hook up to a network.

Also, Sony says that the auto market will shift to a service model where people can regularly pay for software upgrades and entertainment. As vehicles become more autonomous, extra-cost movies and video games will become increasingly valuable.

However, traditional auto companies may challenge Apple, Google, and Sony as they battle for control of vehicle data streams.

The Battle Over Data

Though most automakers have accepted Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, several seek to create their own app system that is nearly fully under their control.

Automakers tout the move as a method to provide customers with a more seamless experience. Still, some in the industry see it as a way for automakers to remove Apple and Google from the equation to continue to sell new services to customers.

Automakers have also continued to tighten their grip on what we can do inside our vehicles, particularly when it comes to apps that operate on infotainment systems.

The ability to retain apps and services within a branded environment isn’t the only reason automakers do this. The other reason could be even more important: control over apps and data, based on who you ask.

According to Roger Lanctot, an analyst with Strategy Analytic, there are several ways to keep the carmaker in control of the system. Automakers may connect drivers with insurance and earn referral fees by maintaining access to driving data. Controlling car system data allows manufacturers to determine when repairs are recommended and controlling maps and apps allows them to determine where those repairs should be performed. And that’s only the beginning.

Promoting their own experiences can also help automakers establish brand loyalty, which is important when deciding where to buy or lease a car.

“If all I see on that car dashboard is Android and Apple, that’s what I identify with as a customer,” says Jeff MacDuff, Inrix’s VP of mobile products.

Though automakers may not have to send more vehicle data than they wish to CarPlay or Android Auto apps, they will have plenty of possibilities to lose if Apple and Google take over.