September 20, 2018
Google has partnered with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to provide its Android operating system for next-generation infotainment systems that will integrate Google’s maps, app store and voice-activated assistant, all from the dashboard. The alliance is the biggest car vendor, having sold 106 million vehicles worldwide last year. Google has been trying for 10 years to replicate its smartphone success in the arena of car manufacturing. The alliance plans to debut cars with the new Google-powered system in 2021.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, “the move comes as other auto makers have been reluctant to cede control of this space to tech rivals, in part because they see the technology as generating valuable consumer data that can be turned into new revenue streams.”
While auto manufacturers struggle to “develop interfaces that are as reliable and easy to use,” drivers often prefer to use their smartphones in the car for directions and other tasks. As a result, “the alliance’s executives said many of its customers are already predisposed to using Google’s apps over the ones developed by the car companies and their suppliers.”
WSJ predicts that this new partnership will “likely put pressure on the alliance’s competitors to further open their car’s multimedia systems to Google or Apple.” Google’s “ultimate vision” is to “create a broad ecosystem for its users, so they will be able to move their digital lives effortlessly between devices, whether it is a car, home or smartphone.”
Although Google will in principle have access to data from its in-car systems, it still must get customer permission before collecting it. Many automakers, however, “say they want to maintain control over licensing data [generated by the car’s onboard electronics] to third parties and see it as a valuable touch point with customers after they leave the showroom.”
Although drivers “have come to expect a user experience similar to their smartphones,” a study by J.D. Power revealed that new car owners find in-car multimedia systems as the “most problematic” category. Consumer Reports, “which is known for pulling its buy recommendation for substandard in-car electronics, now tracks the most and least distracting systems.”