What you need to know about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?
Automakers are busy augmenting their vehicles' digital performance with the development of connected tehnologies and intelligent transport systems (ITS). It's not an easy task, but the standards of the auto industry and customer expectations demand that modern cars are equipped with state-of-the-art security, navigation and communication systems.
Google and Apple are playing central roles in providing in-vehicle infotainment systems like Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, which emerged in the market in 2014 and 2015, respectively. OEMs didn't waste time turning to these services that offered satellite navigation, voice control features, and Bluetooth connection. More importantly, the two services upgraded infotainment systems by integrating the smartphone interface with the vehicle's display panels and physical controls.
While safety is still an issue with both platforms, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have managed to become standards in the auto industry.
How to use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?
Today, more than 500 models from top automakers include Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (or both) in their vehicles. To use Apple CarPlay, drivers must have iOS 7.1 or higher; while Android OS 9 and higher is required for Android Auto. A separate application has to be downloaded from Google Play for lower versions of Android OS. Unlike Apple CarPlay, Android Auto can also be activated only on a smartphone.
Drivers of cars supporting Android Auto or Apple CarPlay must connect their smartphones using a compatible plug-in cable or wirelessly, depending on the phone's model. If a car doesn't support both, a touch screen compatible with both platforms is an option.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay enable drivers to use voice activation via Google Assistant and Apple Siri. Both platforms include various common applications such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Skype, allowing third-party applications to be downloaded.
What is the adoption rate?
Apple CarPlay took almost ten years to develop, while Android Auto is a combined effort of 28 automakers in the Open Automotive Alliance, based on Nvidia's technology.
The demand for these technologies makes both platforms popular but it takes time for automakers to embrace them. Totoya, for example, started to use Apple CarPlay in 2018 and offered Android Auto only in four models in 2020. BMW began to integrate Android Auto in 2020 to its ConnectedDrive system after Apple CarPlay. While brands like MG, VW, Volvo and Subaru offer compatibility with both platforms, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance announced in 2018 that it would adopt Android Auto in future models. With 10.5 million annual sales, the alliance's adoption predicts the future widespread use of the system.
Google takes a new step with Android Automotive
Google took the infotainment system a step further in 2020 by launching Android Automotive, which eliminates the need for a built-in infotainment system (developed by the manufacturer) but replaces the entire system with Google's services. Based on Android 10 mobile software, Android Auto first appeared in Polestar 2 and is preparing to equip cars of several brands, including GM, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Ford.
Through better integration than Android Auto, Android Automotive enables drivers to use voice control through Google Assistant to adjust the temperature or heated seats. The smartphone can be attached via Bluetooth to make calls or play music.
Android Automotive will replace Ford's Sync infotainment system by 2023 for all Ford and Lincoln models.
Safety is still an issue
While advanced infotainment systems may appear as a booster in safe driving, recent research on the topic suggests otherwise and reveals more has to be done to eliminate distraction while driving.
According to the IAM Road Smart report of 2020, the standard reaction time of undistracted drivers increases by 30% and 36% while using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay through voice command, respectively. Android Auto increases reaction time 53% without voice command and Apple CarPlay 57%. In contrast, texting while driving slows down drivers' reactions by 35%. One note in the study states that drivers miscalculate when they are using touch control and not looking at the road for almost 5 seconds. We are yet to see if digital windows will offer an ultimate solution to this problem.
Photo of AppleCar Play running Google Maps in a Honda car, courtesy of Shutterstock.