Android and iOS gear up ahead of on-road fight for supremacy

23 Feb 2015

Dashboard displays are the new battlegrounds for search giant Google and consumer tech titan Apple, as major car manufacturers sign up to host their respective Android and iOS operating systems.

Two dozen car brands will offer smart-phone enabled dashboard capabilities, according to the New York Times, with Toyota the most notable absence.

Only days after reports emerged of Apple’s plans to create its own car, from top to bottom, by the end of the decade, gaining a significant presence in current models is what is of primary concern to both it and Google.

Indeed Google itself is looking at self-driving cars in the same timeframe, but capturing the ever thirsty smartphone market of today remains key.

Android Auto and CarPlay will both function rather similarly, integrating maps, audio and other personalised functions, hands free, in the car.

Plugging your device in with a USB cord, your entire dashboard platform will be populated with a personalised display, with the phones from then on sleeping, so there’s no major distraction for the driver.

Surprise, surprise

Indeed Google maintains this is to help reduce the risk in cars, as more and more drivers travel around with smartphones that they are desperate to interact with, often in dangerous situations.

“We looked at what people do with their phones in the car, and it was scary,” said Andrew Brenner, the lead project manager of Android Auto. “You want to say to them, ‘Yikes, no, don’t do that.’”

Considering the investments made by car manufacturers in the last ten years to better improve their in-car displays and functionality, it does seem remarkable that smartphone operating systems can swoop in and make an immediate, deep incursion into the field.

Despite many car manufactures getting on board – embracing where the latest craze in smart technology is taking us – Japanese car giant Toyota is instead biding its time, working on its own integrations and innovations.

“We may all eventually wind up there, but right now we prefer to use our in-house proprietary platforms for those kinds of functions,” says John Hanson, Toyota’s US manager of advanced technology communications, specifically about his company’s plans in America.

Ford, however, is jumping in at the deep end, embracing both operating systems to allow its customers the best choice.

“We don’t want people to have to make a vehicle choice based on which mobile phone they have,” said Don Butler, Ford’s executive director for connected vehicles and services. “We want to accommodate all customers and their devices.”

Dashboard image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic