Apple, Google, and Autonomous Driving: Way Mo’ to This Than Meets the Eye?
Earlier this month, Apple and Google both announced plans to kill off their self-driving car projects in favor of focusing on developing the underlying technology. We reported it here. But itâ€™s a little weird that one announcement came so close on the heels of the other. Appleâ€™s Project Titan, formerly a self-driving car project, will presumably continue to compete with Googleâ€™s Waymo, which is a subsidiary for Googleâ€™s efforts thus far in the field. Itâ€™s a race, even if neither company has acknowledged it as such.
Last we knew, Project Titan was testing self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs around Silicon Valley, which were first spotted in late April. Waymo was arguably more successful, since theyâ€™d actually succeeded in building a fleet of the Firefly self-driving car pod.
Apple and Google are both being vague about this change in plans, as usual, but we already know a fair amount about how these companies interact with auto manufacturers. We just need to look at Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Some automakers eschew these systems entirely, in favor of their own native smartphone integration and infotainment interfaces. A handful of manufacturers have chosen to support just one or the other.
Many car brands, though, have decided to offer both interfaces to appeal to the most broad range of customers. In this way, Apple and Google both exert considerable influence on automakers based simply on the fact that they sell smartphones.
If Project Titan and Waymo both succeed at becoming functional and user-friendly self-driving car systems, car buyers can expect something similar.Donâ€™t forget that, as Apple and Google (as well as Samsung, Uber, and others) work on autonomous technology, most mainstream automakers are also hard at work developing their own systems. Mercedes has an app that can park a car remotely via smartphone. Range Rover has been working on a similar self-parking system. And lots of automakers, such as GM, Tesla, and Volvo, have come up with suites of features that work together to provide the experience of a semi-autonomous car, with varying degrees of success, setbacks, and self-drivability.
In fact, Business InsiderÂ suggests Apple is too late to catch up, in part because Apple CarPlay is Appleâ€™s only significant influence on the transportation industry. If both companies, and Apple in particular, fall so far behind the curve, why bother? ForbesÂ suggests theyâ€™re after the data that could be collected, analyzed, and used for research and marketing purposes.
Assume for a moment that Apple and Google win, neither forces the other into submission, and both have a shot at working with automakers to get their tech into cars. Itâ€™s possible (but probably not likely) that automakers may abandon their investments and decide to collaborate instead, much like theyâ€™ve overwhelmingly done with smartphone integration. (It wouldnâ€™t be a total loss, of course; the cameras, sensors, hardware, and general car-building expertise would still be needed, just like cars need infotainment systems to run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.)
This is a big leap, perhaps, but it raises interesting possibilities. We can hypothesize that if these tech companies have their way, this tech wonâ€™t be â€œincludedâ€ with cars, and thatâ€™s because they want data. They want to sell their hand-held devices and use them to gather information about us. They want us to carry our phones everywhere â€” more than we already even do â€” and use them to drive our cars.
In May, UberÂ filed a patent for a mobile device that allows a user to control the non-driving functions of a self-driving car. That falls a little short of Apple and Googleâ€™s presumed aspirations, but thatâ€™s fine for now. Uberâ€™s up front about the companyâ€™s plans to eventually have an autonomous fleet, but Uber doesnâ€™t develop mobile platforms or sell devices, so this is justÂ Â further evidence to support this line of speculation.
If autonomous technology does indeed shift in this direction â€” a smartphone provides the backbone the car needs to start, stop, navigate, and park on its ownâ€” itâ€™ll mean interesting things for the Android/iPhone war thatâ€™s been going on since the iPhone was introduced ten years ago and the first Android rolled out a year later.
If Apple and Google gain control of autonomous driving and use smartphones as a means to do it, the brand of your phone could become a much more significant decision. Ultimately, itâ€™ll be up to the automakers to decide whether they want to fall in line or go it alone, just like they did with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Would you be willing (or forced) to buy a brand of smartphone that can integrate with and drive the brand of car you own? If thatâ€™s the case, we could someday see the iPhone/Android battle drive car sales, as consumers choose car brands based on compatibility with their preferred device.
This change in plans certainly suggests that thereâ€™s something else going on. That thereâ€™s more to be gained by developing proprietary technology that bonds with another data-generating product â€” your car â€” than building and selling the car itself. These announcements seemed to take industry experts by surprise, yet theyâ€™re much more in line with what we should expect from both companies.
via The Truth About Cars http://ift.tt/Jh8LjA
June 26, 2017 at 10:08AM
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