Clash of the Titans: Google, Apple & Microsoft Brace Themselves for Your Car

While the ideas of self-driving and connected cars sound tempting as ever, accessing even the basic mobile apps while driving seems challenging at the moment.

A couple of years back, open source showed great promise of offering advanced car-mobile integration. But for some reason, it didn’t really work as expected. In fact, it’s still to do its bit. Some blame the car manufacturers who found it hard to accept that openness also meant losing some control.

An Open Source Breakthrough That Never Worked

In 2010, the Connected Car Consortium (CCC), powered by more than 80% of the world’s automakers, declared a global open standard for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity called MirrorLink. Although automakers continue to release MirrorLink based systems, it has not lived up to the expectations.

However, private mobile players have decided to gear up for the grand dashboard war and try to set their systems as the standard for in-car mobile experience. And it seems that their proprietary systems will finally help us safely talk, text and listen to our music while driving.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an Android, an iPhone, or a Windows handset user, rest assured, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all planning to (or are already creating) advanced systems that integrate your mobiles seamlessly with your cars.

Bringing Android to Your Cars: Google’s Android Auto

Google started its race a few years ago by established the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) to get Android in cars. The OAA vision is to accelerate auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customization and scalability.

“Putting Android in the car will bring drivers apps and services they already know and love, while enabling automakers to more easily deliver cutting-edge technology to their customers.” Patrick Brady, director of Android engineering.

According to a Reuters’ report, Google is apparently pursuing the Android Auto project to develop it into a full-blown IVI system – the Android M. This project is hyped to take the smartphone-IVI integration to the next level. As soon as the driver turns on the ignition, he will be instantly connected to his handset.

Explore Android Auto.

Promising the Best iPhone Experience on Four Wheels: Apple’s Carplay

Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, finds the mobile-car integration very important, naming it as a key focus for Apple.

Apple created CarPlay to enable a better and safer way for us to use and enjoy our iPhones while driving. “CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing.

Automakers like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo stated way back in 2014 that CarPlay would be fitted to their premium models. BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Nissan, Toyota and many more have also announced that they are working on integrating Apple’s CarPlay into vehicles further down the road.

Adding Tiles to Your Dashboard: Microsoft’s Windows in Car

Microsoft’s involvement and contribution to the IVI systems go way before Apple and Google entered the scene. It has been powering many different car entertainment systems over the years. Ford, Kia, BMW, Nissan, and Fiat have all used special versions of Windows to create their own interfaces and systems, but Microsoft is also working on its own “Metro” user interface for its Windows in the car project.

Microsoft’s ‘Windows in Car’ is designed to bring the Windows mobile experience to your dashboard. Their current concept is based on open source MirrorLink system, which mirrors the mobile screen into a touch- and car-friendly interface.

“More of a concept, but a concept that we can work very seriously on so that we can bring the world the IVI (in-vehicle infotainment) and a broadened Windows device together,” said Steve Teixeira, Director of Program Management for the Internet of Things team in Microsoft's Operating Systems Group.

While the Windows mobile market share might not be as high as the Android and iOS market shares, but it will be interesting to see the project in action. After all, Microsoft is a native to the automotive IVI development area. Let’s see if it makes a clean sweep.

Supporting Multiple Mobile Brands

The automotive industry is increasingly finding solutions in openness and collaboration, but it seems that instead of creating one global and open protocol, the mobile companies are working in collaboration with car manufacturers to create better integration.

Car manufacturers want to offer their customers a safe and enjoyable mobile experience in their cars regardless of the mobile brand that they use. It will be interesting to see IVI integration systems that support multiple brands. Systems that can simply work with the mobile that’s plugged in.

Let’s see how the development of the idea for multi-mobile support works out in reality.