Apple, Google Battle For Control of Your Car
|   Friday, August 22, 2014
There's a funny marketing war taking shape in the automotive market as major computer firms Apple and Google jostle for control of your dashboard. Looking at the statements from both sides in this marketing dust-up, it is obvious that though they may know computers, software and all-things electronic, neither Apple nor Google has the foggiest notion of exactly what it takes to drive a car.

Bryan Reimer, a research associate at MIT's AgeLab and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center told NBC News, that the tech giants see drive time as an opportunity to expand and ultimately control the automotive dashboard.
Each is positioning itself to maximize its position on your dashboard.

Technology Battle Brewing

Comparing the automotive environment to the smartphone and tablet market, Reimer said bluntly that there "is a major battle brewing over who will take control" of the auto space.

To that end, each firm has released smartphone apps that enhance their specific position and operating system. "They [Apple and Google] own the smartphone and tablet space," Reimer noted, "but the car is an environment that a lot of us spend a lot of time in and they have a strong desire to own that relationship." Various studies in the last few years have put the amount of time we spend behind the wheel commuting to and from work at nearly two hours per day. It's little wonder that Apple and Google want to maximize their participation or ownership of that market segment. The auto industry is being their ally, too, as they are finding more and more ways to slide WiFi capability into their products.

That there is plenty of growth potential is obvious when you look at the figures gathered by Machine Research. The market research firm believes the market penetration for "smartcars" will grow from the current 10 percent to 90 percent by 2020. With car sales averaging in the 14- to 16-million-car-per-year envelope, you can imagine how badly Apple or Google want to own what they consider virgin territory.

Extreme Car Personalization?

And, what do you think the computer giants want to do with this vast plain of potential sales plenty? They want to "personalize your car," at first, says Gary Silberg, a senior analyst with KPMG. Or, to put it into another perspective, they want to remake your car into a big smartphone. For example, Silberg enthused, cars will be enabled to decide your music tastes, sync up with your calendar and monitor traffic ahead and text out to your smartphone with an alert if there's a problem.

"The car will be this intelligent computer that provides you with mobility," he noted, making you more productive.

The NBC story waxes almost poetic when it describes the ability to let the computer drive the car for you as you do something else. Well, imagine that the computer will drive for you, but what happens if you enjoy the feel of the wheel in your hands and your want to use the brakes when you think you need them?

Reimer boldly states that even today the cars with the best interfaces are the ones that are selling the best. He goes on the enthusiastically to state that things like horsepower, handling and all the other attributes of driving are things of the past. Maybe because he sits in an ivory tower all day, he can be forgiven hits naive attitude, but from where we view the road all the computers in the world still can't handle traffic jams and maneuvering through flooded streets all that other great stuff that a real live driver can do.

Drivetime A Waste?

The most insulting thing to drivers and the industry alike is the computer world's attitude that driving time or dash time is really just wasted time. It's time when you can't be productive. However, many drivers use the time to help de-stress from a busy day or just enjoy a DVD or satellite tune they may have chosen.

This seems to be elitism taken to the nth degree and NBC has bought the fairy tale hook, line and sinker and is helping Apple sell Car Play, which is little more than an enlarged smart radio system. Meantime, Google's planned Android Auto is also waiting in the wings to help the "smartcar" take off.

Reimer says, as well, that the important things won't happen until cars can drive themselves (and then you can blame the computer for crashing on why you're late for dinner). That's the moment when computers will enable you to spend even your drivetime working, or as the computer industry calls it, being productive.

Imagine that, in the future you will not only be able to work from home as your office system texts out to your home system with your day's complement of work assignment and when you are ready to roll, your home system will tell your car where you left off so you can be just as productive on your way to the office and vice versa.

Productivity Invades Private Space?

What does this mean? It means that you will be able to work 14 or 15 hours straight and have a little time to sleep. Isn't that generous of the computer world?

So, the auto industry is being pushed by the tech sector to develop its own "smartcars," however, analysts believe it is already too late and are welcoming the change. They think the world of computers and fail to see an important area they are missing, safety. Silberg, an analyst, said that while the tech firms have the advantage in computers, they just don't understand the realities of the driving world. Imagine what would happen if your car/computer rebooted or crashed at 60 or more mph? How many pieces might it break into?

Yes, Google can tout 700,000 miles of intelligent computer-driving without an accident, but in the average year, the American automotive fleet drives millions of traffic miles and there are still 40,000 people dying. The tech sector is conveniently overlooking this fact as it salivates over what it wants you to drive in 20 years.

It should be an interesting time as computers and cars are not a match made anywhere but in the minds of developers who write code that has to be debugged and they would likely run their debug using live cars and drivers.

All it will take is just one accident, Reimer notes, for the world to do what the tech sector believes it should not do, and that would be shut down the program. He blames fear for its potential to slow adoption or to have regulations passed that might impact the "smartcar" permanently. This is the wrong attitude, he believes as he thinks that fear should be discarded as it might cause hasty reactions and "hasty regulation." Further, he believes that regulation is not needed.

This is something like the old saw about tails wagging their dogs because no matter how you look at it, the auto industry (the dog) still controls its tail and not the other way around.
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