Automakers in tug-of-war with Apple; data is key to HMI battle

Nuying Huang, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: Apple

The HMI (human-machine interface) battle between automakers and mobile phone platforms has been getting fiercer and fiercer. Most automakers are afraid of their business opportunities being swallowed up by Apple's CarPlay, but they've made limited progress in the self-development of operating systems (OS) and related software. However, a recently discovered "data trump card," namely navigation and mileage calculation, has given automakers the confidence to make their move.

Recently, General Motors (GM) launched the first strike against Apple, announcing that its future EV models will no longer support CarPlay. The car brands under GM hope to rely on their own software platform and vehicle data to perform deep links.

Suppliers pointed out that the key to the HMI lies in the automotive OS. Software developers that are working together with automakers to build an OS include Android Automotives and AWS for Automotive. GM's partners in China include Alibaba, Baidu, and Huawei.

In reality, many car experts don't favor the automakers to win the automotive HMI battle. The main reason is that consumer usage habits have long been infiltrated by mobile phones. It's difficult for the OS launched by the automakers to be as smooth to use as mobile phones

However, from a long-term perspective, automakers won't give up self-development easily to get the most control over HMIs. In particular, mainstream automakers like Toyota, Volkswagen, GM, and Ford can take their shot due to their high market share. Tesla has also self-developed its proprietary OS and controls most of its in-vehicle data business opportunities. Tesla is a key rival to the aforementioned automakers and is currently the most valuable automaker.

Foreign media pointed out that amid the electronic transformation, automakers have discovered an important trump card, namely navigation and mileage calculation. These two figures can vary widely due to ambient temperature, tire pressure, and other factors. To calculate things like the route to the charging stations, the OS needs to be able to obtain data on vehicle battery status and more.

Suppliers pointed out that since automakers control the data, they can more effectively control distance with their software supplier partners. In contrast, mobile phone platforms struggle to obtain this data and cannot achieve the functions car owners expected.

Right now, it seems that Apple is using its mobile phone advantage to penetrate the network, rather than a customized partnership for automakers similar to Android brands. For automakers, CarPlay is a Trojan Horse.

Apple recently announced that there are currently over 800 car models in the market that support CarPlay. At WWDC (Apple Worldwide Developers Conference) 2022, it also pointed out that nearly 80% of car buyers in the US will only consider supporting new cars with CarPlay. Ford also praised CarPlay for making it easy for car owners to access and control their mobile apps.

Despite that, for better or worse, most automakers view Apple Car as a serious rival for the future. They're worried that the innovative experiences brought to consumers by the iPhone will be replicated in cars. This is perhaps a deeper reason why automakers have been so keen on keeping up with Apple.