As could be seen at this month's CES in Las Vegas, Apple and Google clearly have the automotive industry in their sights. Both companies look set to bring their expertise to cars, with significant implications for drivers, makers and suppliers of car audio and navigation systems. Semicast Research has looked at how Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto could impact the market for traditional onboard car navigation systems.
Onboard car navigation systems store mapping data internally; traditionally media formats such as CD and DVD were most common, but system design has moved almost entirely to HDD, SSD and SD Card storage in the last three years. While technological development in the automotive industry has been rapid, it has not come close to the rate of change seen in the consumer sector, which witnessed the introduction of the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.
Together, Apple and Google have transformed the consumer experience for music playback by integrating music storage into their mobile OSs, iOS and Android, along with the integration of free navigation functions such as Apple Maps and Google Street View. Both iOS and Android also support downloadable apps, which has enabled development of streaming audio services like Spotify and a host of free navigation apps. With smartphone and tablet capacity now up to 128GB and 4G/LTE cellphone coverage and free Wi-Fi rising rapidly, downloading a free 2GB navigation app holding an entire country’s navigation database onto a smartphone or tablet is a perfectly sensible use of storage, especially as an alternative to a navigation system which may cost over $1,000 and look out of date in a year.
Thus far, both companies have had little opportunity to penetrate the automotive market, with everyday consumer technologies as common as USB ports and Wi-Fi still rarely seen in the automobile. However the automotive industry is now succumbing to the power of market forces, as the development of CarPlay and Android Auto demonstrate.
One critical issue is the development timescales and lifecycles for automotive, communications and consumer technology do not align. The first generation of GM’s OnStar is a great example of this, based on analogue cellphone technology that was obsolete long before the vehicle it was installed in. Colin Barnden, Principal Analyst, Semicast Research, commented “As CarPlay and Android Auto demonstrate, Apple, Google and the auto industry have learnt from the OnStar experience and will overcome the timescale issue not by integrating consumer technology into the car, but by interfacing it.”
The concept underpinning both CarPlay and Android Auto is technology that will be carried around by the driver in the form of a smartphone or tablet, which also stores their music, playlists, videos and provides navigation. The interface from the phone or tablet to the vehicle can be provided by USB or Wi-Fi, and the car’s centre stack display mirrors that of the phone or tablet. CarPlay and Android Auto provide the software interface between the smartphone or tablet and the car, along with compliance to the legal and safety requirements for the automotive market. This points to next-gen automotive entertainment systems combining a video display with touchscreen, gesture recognition and steering wheel controls and interface to voice applications such as Apple’s Siri. Aftermarket systems from suppliers such as Alpine, JVC Kenwood, Parrot and Pioneer are already available, with almost all of the major vehicle makers lined up to support CarPlay and Android Auto, including BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Peugeot-Citroen and Toyota.
Semicast thus sees CarPlay and Android Auto as signaling the long term decline of the traditional onboard embedded navigation systems market, just as navigation apps on smartphones have significantly reduced demand for dedicated portable navigation devices. Barnden summed up “The big picture is clear; Apple and Google, two technology giants with a combined market cap of about $1trillion, now have a foothold in the automotive market too.”