Apple Is Building the Android Automotive Rival Google Never Wanted

The adoption of Android Auto and CarPlay is on the rise, and while the two are basically competitors and fighting for the same markets, their capabilities are almost identical.
Android Automotive UI 11 photos
Photo: Polestar
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Both Android Auto and CarPlay mirror the mobile device on the display in the cabin, so it requires a permanent connection to the smartphone, either wired or wireless.

Furthermore, the apps that can be used on Android Auto and CarPlay are pretty much the same, also with a similar feature lineup, mostly because the two platforms are trying to offer a driving-optimized experience whose role is to reduce the distraction behind the wheel.

All while also allowing drivers to interact with the apps they need, including messages, phone calls, and music players.

Many years ago, however, Google decided to push things to the next level. Back in 2017, the company announced Android Automotive, a fully-featured operating system whose role was to provide drivers with an upgraded Android Auto experience.

Pre-loaded with the vehicle, Android Automotive offers more advanced capabilities that no longer require a mobile device, obviously thanks to the deep integration into the car.

Polestar was the first to adopt Android Automotive in early 2018, and since then, the number of cars to use the system has increased gradually. However, the adoption of Android Automotive is still in its early days, though Google claims it has already partnered with several carmakers to bring the OS to their future models.

Android Automotive in Polestar 2
Photo: Polestar
Enter Apple.

It was pretty clear that the iPhone maker couldn’t just sit and watch Google expanding in the automotive market with Android Automotive, so today, at WWDC, the company announced the modern version of CarPlay.

Just like Android Automotive, this upgraded CarPlay experience is offered pre-loaded with new vehicles, and its capabilities are very similar. For instance, thanks to the integration in the car, the system can read more vehicle information and let the user control the climate settings or the radio straight from the app and using Siri-powered voice commands.

However, Apple wants to make this evolved version of CarPlay a new-gen experience, so it’s bringing it to all displays inside the car.

CarPlay will be able to provide content for multiple screens within the vehicle, creating an experience that is unified and consistent. Deeper integration with the vehicle will allow users to do things like controlling the radio or change the climate directly through CarPlay, and using the vehicle data, CarPlay will seamlessly render the speed, fuel level, temperature, and more on the instrument cluster,” Apple says.

Users will be able to personalize their driving experience by choosing different gauge cluster designs, and with added support for widgets, users will have at-a-glance information from Weather and Music right on their car’s dashboard.

The new\-gen CarPlay experience
Photo: Apple
So, in theory, Apple wants CarPlay to be in charge of almost everything happening on the dashboard or on the head unit, which kind of makes sense given the deep integration into the vehicle’s hardware.

However, you’d better not hold your breath for the new CarPlay to go live just yet. This is because Apple says the very first vehicles with the system would only see the daylight at some point in late 2023, so we’re still far from the moment this is projected to happen.

In many ways, this makes perfect sense, as Apple doesn’t seem to be in a rush to release this feature, especially because it takes time to get everything right. And at the same time, given the adoption of Android Automotive is still in its early phases, the company has no reason to be in a rush, therefore giving CarPlay more time to gain market share and continue the fight against Android Auto.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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